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    This paper starts by reviewing empirical research that threatens law and economics’ initial success. This research has demonstrated that the functioning of the law cannot be well understood based on the assumption of the rational actor and that policies which are based on this assumption are likely to be flawed. Subsequently, three responses to this criticism are discussed. Whereas the first response denounces this criticism by maintaining that the limitations attributed to the rational actor can easily be incorporated in rational choice theory, the second response welcomes the criticism as an opportunity to come up with an integrative theory of law and behavior. The third response also takes the criticism seriously but replaces the aspiration to come up with such an integrative theory by a context-sensitive approach. It will be argued that the first two responses fall short while the third response offers a promising way to go forward.


Peter Mascini
Prof. dr. P. Mascini, Erasmus School of Law and Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Erasmus University Rotterdam.

    This article examines the main assumptions and theoretical underpinnings of case study method in legal studies. It considers the importance of research design, including the crucial roles of the academic literature review, the research question and the use of rival theories to develop hypotheses and the practice of identifying the observable implications of those hypotheses. It considers the selection of data sources and modes of analysis to allow for valid analytical inferences to be drawn in respect of them. In doing so it considers, in brief, the importance of case study selection and variations such as single or multi case approaches. Finally it provides thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses associated with undertaking socio-legal and comparative legal research via a case study method, addressing frequent stumbling blocks encountered by legal researchers, as well as ways to militate them. It is written with those new to the method in mind.


Lisa Webley

    Sensitive interviews involve emotionally difficult topics which require participants to face issues that are deeply personal and possibly distressing. This paper draws together reflections concerning how researchers manage the challenges of conducting sensitive interviews, including the author’s own reflections concerning interviewing clinical negligence claimants. First, it examines the ethical guidelines that regulate sensitive research, and the challenges of obtaining informed consent and maintaining confidentiality. Ethical guidelines, however, provide limited assistance for ensuring the emotional care of research participants, and we also consider challenges that are not usually formally regulated. These include preparing for the interview, and then ensuring the emotional care of participants both during and after the interview itself. Sensitive research also raises deeper ethical issues concerning the negotiation of relations between researcher and participant, especially when this relationship is unequal. Finally, while previous research has generally focused on the need to take emotional care of research participants, less attention has been given to the emotional needs of researchers. It is argued that support systems for researchers are too often ad hoc, and that providing support is often not a priority of granting bodies, grant holders or supervisors, and that formal systems need to be put in place.


Angela Melville
Flinders Law School, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia. Email: angela.melville@flinders.edu.au.

Darren Hincks
Flinders Law School, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia.

    Legal novices are generally not very well educated in the do’s and don’ts of empirical legal research. This article lays out the general principles and discusses the most important stumbling blocks on the way forward. The presentation starts at the formulation of a research question. Next, the methodology of descriptive research (operationalization and measurement, sampling and selection bias) is briefly addressed. The main part of the article discusses the methodology of explanatory research (causal inference, experimental and quasi-experimental research designs, statistical significance, effect size). Medical malpractice law is used as a central source of illustration.


Ben C.J. van Velthoven
Associate professor of Law and Economics at Leiden Law School. I wish to thank Nienke van der Linden, Ali Mohammad and Charlotte Vrendenbargh from Leiden Law School and two anonymous reviewers and the editors of this journal for helpful comments on earlier drafts.

    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
Artikel

Access_open Empirical Facts: A Rationale for Expanding Lawyers’ Methodological Expertise

Tijdschrift Law and Method, 2013
Trefwoorden empirical facts, research methods, legal education, social facts
Auteurs Terry Hutchinson
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article examines the importance of the social evidence base in relation to the development of the law. It argues that there is a need for those lawyers who play a part in law reform (legislators and those involved in the law reform process) and for those who play a part in formulating policy-based common law rules (judges and practitioners) to know more about how facts are established in the social sciences. It argues that lawyers need sufficient knowledge and skills in order to be able to critically assess the facts and evidence base when examining new legislation and also when preparing, arguing and determining the outcomes of legal disputes. For this reason the article argues that lawyers need enhanced training in empirical methodologies in order to function effectively in modern legal contexts.


Terry Hutchinson
Terry Hutchinson is Associate Professor, Law School at QUT Faculty of Law.
Artikel

Access_open ‘I’d like to learn what hegemony means’

Teaching International Law from a Critical Angle

Tijdschrift Law and Method, 2013
Trefwoorden Bildung, cultural hegemony, international law, teaching
Auteurs Christine E.J. Schwöbel-Patel
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This contribution explores the possibility of teaching international law in a critical fashion. I examine whether the training which is taking place at law schools is establishing and sustaining a cultural hegemony (a term borrowed from Antonio Gramsci). I ask whether the current focus on technical practice-oriented teaching is a condition which should be questioned, even disrupted? In my thoughts on reorientations of this culture, a central term is the German word Bildung. Bildung refers to knowledge and education as an end in itself (John Dewey) as well as an organic process (Hegel), and therefore incorporates a wider understanding than the English word ‘education’. In terms of international law, a notion of Bildung allows us to acknowledge the political nature of the discipline; it may even allow us to ‘politicize’ our students.


Christine E.J. Schwöbel-Patel
Christine E.J. Schwöbel-Patel is Lecturer in Law at University of Liverpool.
Artikel

Access_open What Epistemology Would Serve Criminal Law Best in Finding the Truth about Rape?

Tijdschrift Law and Method, 2012
Trefwoorden epistemology (‘scientific’ versus ‘critical’), rape in criminal law, normative classification, empirical evidence
Auteurs Nicolle Zeegers
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article answers the question of why and in what respects a ‘critical epistemology’, compared to a ‘scientific epistemology’, offers the better alternative for criminal law investigations into rape. By resuming the recent debate concerning the importance of scientific truth in criminal law investigations the author shows that this debate overlooks the cultural values that are necessarily involved in many criminal law cases. Such involvement of cultural values will be illustrated with a historical overview of law cases concerning rape in the context of a heterosexual relationship. Whereas value-free knowledge is the ideal strived for by a ‘scientific epistemology’, the basic idea of a critical epistemology is that knowledge is theory dependent and not free of values. Therefore this epistemology offers the best guarantees for acknowledging the values that are necessarily involved in many criminal law inquiries.


Nicolle Zeegers
Dr. Nicolle Zeegers is universitair docent Politieke Wetenschappen aan de Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.
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