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Empirical Legal Studies

Introduction to empirical legal studies--an approach to studying and law and legal institutions that draws on social science methods.

Learning About Research Methods

black and white etching of hand turning crank of scientific apparatusYou can start with reading about methods. Or you might choose to take a workshop or enroll in a class or two. Finding collaborators with the expertise you need might be an option.

In addition to reading books about methods, don't overlook the benefit of reading published studies. Not only do you get to read interesting findings, you will also learn about the process of research and you'll see examples of how to present data. Papers will generally have sections describing methods (e.g., if authors used a survey, how did they select a sample? how did they keep track of participants? how many responses did they get? how did they code answers?). They might also have an appendix with more details.


Graphic: Newton's Revolving Disc for Re-Composing Colours into White Light, from The Half Hour Library of Travel, Nature and Science for Young Readers (1896), available in British Library's photostream on Flickr

Workshops for Legal Scholars

Experienced empirical researchers offer workshops aimed at legal scholars. For example, Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law is offering a Workshop on Research Design for Causal Inference in summer 2024.

Sources for further workshop announcements include:


Graduate students (and sometimes undergrads) in the social sciences are required to take classes in the research methods of their fields. A partial list at the UW includes;

Poster announcing free adult education classes and encouraging adults to return to school, showing earth. Anthropology

  • ANTH 403 Qualitative Research Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology
  • ANTH Advanced Qualitative Methods in Anthropology and Public Health


  • COM 382 Social Scientific Approaches to Communication Research
  • COM 383 Qualitative Communication Research Methods
  • COM 501 Methods of Inquiry
  • COM 513 Fieldwork Research Methods
  • COM 517 Survey Research

Political Science

  • POL S 500 Political Research Design and Analysis
  • POL S 501 Advanced Political Research Design and Analysis
  • POL S 502 Qualitative Research Methods
  • POL S 503 Advanced Quantitative Political Methodology
  • POL S 504 Multi-Method Field Research


  • PSYCH 481 Seminar in Advanced Quantitative Methods
  • PSYCH 524 Introduction to Statistics and Data Analysis
  • PSYCH 531 Practical Issues in Data Analysis and Presentation


  • SOC 220 Introduction to Sociological Methods
  • SOC 221 Statistical Concepts and Methods for the Social Sciences
  • SOC 506 Methodology: Quantitative Techniques in Sociology
  • SOC 574 Seminar in Methods of Criminological Research

Foster School of Business

  • BA RM 590 Behavioral Research Methods - Theory and Design
  • BA RM 591 Behavioral Research Methods - Approaches and Applications

Evans School of Public Policy and Governance

  • PUBPOL 525 Qualitative Field Methods and Analysis
  • PUBPOL 527 Quantitative Analysis I
  • PUBPOL 528 Quantitative Analysis II
  • PUBPOL 529 Advanced Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis

School of Public Health

  • SPH 480 Research Methods in Public Health

School of Social Work

  • SOC W 505 Foundations of Social Welfare Research
  • SOC W 506 Social Welfare Research and Evaluation



Graphic: Poster by Sam Braun, Federal Art Project, 1937. "The World Wants New Knowledge, New Skills--Enroll: Federal Adult Schools." Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.