Universiteit Leiden

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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) Joanne van der Leun  (Dean, Professor of Criminology) Katrien Klep  (Assistant Professor) Amalia Campos Delgado  (Assistant professor) Janine Ubink  (Professor of Law, Governance and Development) Maryla Klajn  (PhD candidate)
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, you will receive 3 ECTS. If you also participate in the tutorials, you will receive 2 more ECTS (5 ECTS in total). In all instances, you are expected to actively participate in class and fulfil the assignments.


Classes take place on Mondays and Thursdays from 15.15-17.00 on 05-12-22, 12-12-22, 19-12-22, 9-1-23, 16-1-23, 19-1-23, 23-1-23, 30-1-23 and 2-2-23.


Course objectives

Upon completing the course (3 ECTS), students will be able to:

- Develop a solid research design that suits the research question at hand;

- Distinguish between qualitative interviewing, focus groups, visual methods, discourse analysis and case study research;

- Reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of each qualitative research strategy and its ability to answer different types of questions;

- Assess in which circumstances it is best to apply different qualitative research strategies;

- Compare the strengths and weaknesses of different qualitative research options and to assess the quality of research design choices of other scholars;

- Compare the strengths and weaknesses of different tools for qualitative analysis and to assess in which circumstances it is best to use each tool;

- Write a methodology section and to reflect on methodological choices in a PhD thesis.


Upon completing the course (additional 2 ECTS), students will be able to:

- Prepare and conduct different types of qualitative interviews;

- Prepare and conduct qualitative focus groups;

- Code data using Atlas.ti software.

Compulsory literature

You can find the compulsory literature with each lecture and tutorial 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 via email


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

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