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EMPIRICAL RESEARCH METHODS

Professor Vern R. Walker

Hofstra University School of Law
Hempstead, New York 11549   USA


EMPIRICAL RESEARCH METHODS OF THE LLT LAB

The LLT Research Laboratory is empirical in its orientation, and its logic-based methodology makes it possible to scale up resources, take a team approach to research, and conduct comparative research. The paradigm for the laboratory is the science research laboratory found in both the U.S. and Europe. The following lists, in a preliminary way, various components that are fundamental to an empirical method of this type.

A. Study Samples. Research projects in particular legal areas are based on identified samples of legal documents. Both target areas and samples are selected after considering factors that include the following:

B. Verifiable Measurements. Research projects in particular legal areas have the descriptive goal of accurately modeling the reasoning found in the legal documents of the sample. Such modeling (as with any scientific measurement) must exhibit both reliability and validity. The methods required include the following:
These methods should be capable of achieving inter-researcher reliability (that is, multiple researchers should model the same natural-language reasoning in the same way). They should also be capable of validation for accuracy (e.g., through accurate prediction of outcomes in other cases, or through corroboration by actual decision-makers).

C. Schemas of Recurring Patterns. Research projects have the normative goal of critiquing past decisions and providing guidance for future decision-making. Schemas for correct reasoning are based on the rules and policies found in the particular legal area, as well as on past practice in actual decision-making in that area. Developing such schemas takes into account:
D. Systematic Improvement of the Methods. Research projects have the goal not only of describing and critiquing the reasoning in the particular legal area, but also of improving the empirical methodology of the research laboratory. Scientific research is characterized by the systematic effort to monitor and improve the use of scientific method. There should be methods in place for achieving the following:

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