Empirical Legal Studies (ELS)

Empirical Legal Studies

Within ERI we use classical law methods of research (law in the books). We also conduct empirical research. Empirical Legal Studies (ELS) studies the underlying assumptions and the operation of the law in practice (law in action). 
An important aim of both classical legal studies and empirical legal studies is to determine whether the law and the institutions that operate within it are currently suited to their task: are they able to respond adequately to current developments, and if so, how? Can they do so within the essential frameworks of the rule of law and effectiveness? And what can follow from this for future task performance?

The specific empirical research method varies from project to project. For example, we conduct both qualitative and quantitative research among litigants and other legal actors to answer our substantive questions. Often we also do different methods within a project or within a research program. We then work on triangulation. Among others, we use the following methods:

A.    Interviews (for example, with topic lists or in focus groups)
B.    Questionnaire research (for example, with both open and closed questions)
C.    Experiments (including vignette studies and field experiments) 
D.    Observational research
E.    Big data research

The research methods we use vary from project to project and change over time. More important than this list of methods are the substantive questions we try to answer with our research.


A goal of ELS is also to embed legal empirical research more into Utrecht's undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral education.