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Year 2015 x

    In this paper, an attempt is made to work out a methodology for comparative legal research, which goes beyond the ‘functional method’ or methodological scepticism.
    The starting point is the idea that we need a ‘toolbox’, not a fixed methodological road map, and that a lot of published, but largely unnoticed, research outside rule and case oriented comparative law offers varying approaches, which could usefully be applied in comparative research. Six methods have been identified: the functional method, the structural one, the analytical one, the law-in-context method, the historical method, and the common core method. Basically, it is the aim of the research and the research question that will determine which methods could be useful. Moreover, different methods may be combined, as they are complementary and not mutually exclusive.This paper focuses on scholarly comparative legal research, not on the use of foreign law by legislators or courts, but, of course, the methodological questions and answers will largely overlap.


Mark Van Hoecke
Professor of Comparative Law at Queen Mary University of London, and Professor of Legal Theory and Comparative Law at Ghent University

    Central to this contribution is the question whether Dworkin’s theory of constructive interpretation as a method of applying law for the judge, can be used as a method of legal-dogmatic research. Constructive interpretation is a method of legal interpretation that aims to find a normative unity in the diversity of rules that characterize a legal system. In order to find an answer to this question, the key elements of Dworkin’s theory are explained and applied to the author’s PhD research. Methodological difficulties that could give rise to problems when applying Dworkin’s theory, are investigated. In the end, the author concludes that since the judge and the scholar use quite the same methods when interpreting law, the principles of constructivism should fit legal research well, even though some aspects of Dworkin’s theory are difficult to operationalize in practice. As a leading notion however, constructivism constitutes a workable method of legal research.


Francisca Christina Wilhelmina de Graaf LL.M
Fanny de Graaf is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Law, VU University.
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