Research Methods in Human Rights
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Research Methods in Human Rights

A Handbook

Edited by Bård A. Andreassen, Hans-Otto Sano and Siobhán McInerney-Lankford

Methodological discussion has largely been neglected in human rights research, with legal scholars in particular tending to address research methods and methodological reflection implicitly rather than explicitly. This book advances thinking on human rights methodology, offering instruction and guidance on the methodological options for human rights research.
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Chapter 12: Quantitative methods in advocacy oriented human rights research

Margaret Satterthwaite and Daniel Kacinski


Applied human rights researchers have turned to quantitative methods in recent years to ‘move beyond anecdote’ and answer questions about the scope, intensity, characteristics, responsibility for and causes of human rights violations. Drawing on widely varying data, a range of methods with different capabilities have been employed for a spectrum of purposes. These methods not only vary in their approach and capacity, but they also relate to international human rights law in different ways. This chapter provides an overview of how quantitative methods are being used by researchers engaged in real-world human rights work. The methods can be split into two general categories: first, techniques focused on the collection of data, and second, methods that can be applied to transform and analyze that data. Both categories of tools provide unique promise for human rights research, but also carry perils that practitioners must be aware of. These tools, when applied in the proper settings and for appropriate uses, can give access to information that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and can identify patterns or practices that might otherwise be missed. Practitioners must be wary, however, of perils in application and fit: while applied human rights questions are similar in many ways to queries in social science, they differ in their ethical dimensions and immediacy.

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