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Qualitative Empirical Research Methods in Law / Introductory Course PhD-candidates

This introductory course aims to provide PhD-candidates with an understanding of the purpose and appropriate use of the major qualitative research methods in legal research. It will help participants to identify research methods that are suitable for their concrete research questions.

Target group
PhD candidate
Judith van Uden  (PhD Candidate) Katrien Klep  (Assistant Professor) Danielle Chevalier  (Assistant Professor) Carolien Jacobs  (Assistant Professor) Jennifer Doekhie  (Assistant professor) Bruno Braak  (Postdoc)
Training course


Although qualitative research methods are often identified with the social sciences more generally than with the discipline of law in particular, also lawyers and legal scholars do make use of qualitative research methods. Examples of this type of research are studies that examine people's perception of law and justice, the interactions between different courts, effects of gender, or legal aid and access to justice. This introductory course will discuss different qualitative methods. It aims to provide PhD-candidates with an understanding of the purpose and appropriate use of the major qualitative research methods, and to equip researchers with the skills to decide whether their research topic requires the use of qualitative research methods, to select the most appropriate research methods and to know how to report on them.

Mode of instruction

The full course consists of six lectures and four tutorials. If you only participate in the lectures, a total of 84 hours will be recorded. If you also participate in the tutorials, 140 hours will be recorded. In all instances, you are expected to actively participate in class and fulfil the assignments.


Starting from 20 November 2023 every Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday a lecture or tutorial will take place. The lecture or tutorial starts at 15.15 and lasts until 17.00. These are the dates:

Monday 20 November 2023
Monday 27 November 2023
Monday 4 December 2023
Monday 11 December 2023
Monday 18 December 2023
Monday 15 January 2024

Thursday 18 January 2024
Monday 22 January 2024
Tuesday 30 January 2024
Thursday 1 February 2024

Course objectives

Upon completing the six lectures (84 hours), students will be able to:

  • Develop a solid research design that suits the research question at hand;
  • Distinguish between qualitative interviewing, focus groups, participant observation, and case study research;
  • Reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each qualitative research strategy in its ability to answer different types of questions;
  • Assess in which circumstances it is best to apply different qualitative research strategies;
  • Reflect on how to conduct ethically sound qualitative research;
  • Write a methodology section and reflect on methodological choices in a potential (PhD) thesis.

Upon completing the whole course (lectures and tutorials: 140 hours), students will be able to:

  • Prepare and conduct different types of qualitative interviews;
  • Process interviews efficiently;
  • Prepare and conduct qualitative focus groups.

Compulsory literature

You can find the overview of compulsory literature in the syllabus on BrightSpace. 


All assignments are to be handed in through Brightspace 24 hours before the start of the meeting, unless indicated otherwise. In addition, some assignments will have to be printed and taken to class. If this is the case, this is indicated with the description of the assignment.


Please register here


Presence in class is mandatory. If you are unable to attend one of the lectures, please send an email beforehand.

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