Empirical Legal Research

Empirical Legal Research

A Guidance Book for Lawyers, Legislators and Regulators

Frans L. Leeuw and Hans Schmeet

Empirical Legal Research describes how to investigate the roles of legislation, regulation, legal policies and other legal arrangements at play in society. It is invaluable as a guide to legal scholars, practitioners and students on how to do empirical legal research, covering history, methods, evidence, growth of knowledge and links with normativity. This multidisciplinary approach combines insights and approaches from different social sciences, evaluation studies, Big Data analytics and empirically informed ethics. The book discusses the tensions between the normative character of law and legal issues and the descriptive and causal character of empirical legal research, and suggests ways to help handle this seeming disconnect.

Chapter 8: Analyzing and visualizing quantitative and qualitative data

Frans L. Leeuw and Hans Schmeet

Subjects: law - academic, criminal law and justice, law and society, research methods in law, research methods, research methods in law


Data analysis is a body of methods that helps to describe facts, detect patterns, develop explanations and test theories. Quantitative data analysis describes, explains and evaluates phenomena by using mathematically based methods (in particular statistics) (Aliaga and Gunderson, 2005). Qualitative data analysis is the process and procedure whereby researchers move from qualitative data into (some form of) exploration, explanation, understanding or interpretation of people, situations, arrangements and ‘products’. More and more qualitative data are ‘digitized’ and become accessible to quantitative methods. For a long time ‘paradigm wars’ existed between both ‘branches’ but, partly due to innovations in the field of computer-assisted methods and Big Data (including sensor data), these ‘wars’ are disappearing. Sections 8.2 to 8.4 below deal with quantitative data analysis, while section 8.5 focuses on Big Data analysis, and section 8.6 on qualitative data analysis. Section 8.7 discusses combining qualitative and quantitative analysis, while section 8.8 presents information on data visualization. Section 8.9 discusses criteria to assess the (methodological) quality of data analyses while section 8.10 gives some guidance.

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