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Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät Prof. Dr. Tilmann Altwicker

Lecture: Introduction to Empirical Legal Studies

Course Description

ʺOur case material is a gold mine for scientific work. It has not been scientifically exploited. ... We should critically examine all the methods now used in any of the social sciences and having any useful degree of objectivity.ʺ Herman Oliphant (1928) What was called for in this quote almost 100 years ago is only gradually being realised in our time. Empirical legal research, i.e. data-based research on the origins and effects of law, is currently developing a great deal of momentum. Typical questions that interest empirical legal researchers are for example: Do female judges decide differently than male judges? Can judgments of the European Court of Human Rights be predicted? What patterns of citation can be discerned in case law? Among others, the lecture explores the following questions: What is empirical (legal) research and what is it used for? How do lawyers and courts use findings from empirical research? What are the phases of an empirical research project? How is legal data collected? What are the methods of analysis? How are empirical results communicated? What are the limits of empirical legal research?

Structure: The course is divided into a lecture part and an exercise part. In the exercise part, an introduction to (basic) quantitative methods and the freely available statistical software R is given. Students will practise applying simple statistical methods to legal data. Examples from a variety of legal fields are analysed.

Knowledge of statistics and R are not required.


The lecture will take place on Tuesdays (16:15-18:00) in the room RAK-E-8. The lecture will be recorded and the podcasts will be available on Olat shortly after the lecture. 

The course materials will be available via OLAT.

Syllabus (PDF, 136 KB)