Empirical Research Methods for Legal Studies

An Introduction to Social Science Research Methods
Empirical legal questions are increasingly pressing for society and academics alike. Covering the law in action, victims, governmental accountability, police investigation, reporting and so on, the study of these questions is at the core of a blossoming field of academic endeavour in the US. But until now Europe has lagged behind. Law students here generally receive little training in empirical methods, and most social scientists are unversed in law.
Course levelMaster, open to PhD staff and professionals
Session 1 6 July to 20 July 2019
Recommended course combinationSession 2: Discover the Dutch: Language and Culture
Session 3: Transnational Policing
Co-ordinating lecturerProf. Catrien Bijleveld
Other lecturersDr. Marijke Malsch, Prof. Peter van der Laan, Prof. Arno Akkermans
Form(s) of tuitionLectures, exercises, tutorials, fieldwork
Form(s) of assessmentPresentation
ECTS3 credits
Contact hours45
Tuition fee€1150

Students and professionals in the field of Law, Sociology, Criminology and Conflict Studies, and junior researchers in these fields. If you have doubts about your eligibility for the course, please let us know. Students who are in their final year of bachelors studies or have obtained a full bachelors degree are able to register for this course. Our courses are multi-disciplinary and therefore are open to students and professionals with a wide variety of backgrounds.

This course seeks to redress the imbalance by introducing students and scholars of law – in all branches – to the basics of social science research methodology. It covers all relevant material whilst assuming little or no prior knowledge of research methods or statistics. Topics include problem specification, the empirical research cycle, literature searches and analysis, hypothesis identification, research design at the micro, meso and macro levels, research ethics, sampling, measurement strategies, data analysis, statistics and reporting. We discuss the subject matter in an accessible format with a minimum of formulas. You also gain hands-on know-how and training by conducting your own field study

Your course leader, Catrien Bijleveld, holds degrees in Research Methods and Law. She is Professor of Research Methods in Criminology at VU Amsterdam. She also has a well-deserved reputation for translating complicated material into easily digestible language.

At the end of this course you will:

  • Be able to formulate empirical research questions and hypotheses.
  • Be able to distinguish between quantitative and qualitative research methods.
  • Know how to choose a research design for a specific question.
  • Be aware of research ethics with human subjects.
  • Know how to draw a representative sample.
  • Know how to choose a measurement method.
  • Know how to design an interview plan and to conduct an interview.
  • Know the basics of data analysis, including descriptive and inferential statistics.
  • Be able to distinguish between the strengths and weaknesses of different types of samples, measurement methods and analysis techniques.
  • Be able to present empirical research findings.
Reader provided at start of course.
Specialists from the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) and VU Amsterdam.
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