Stumbling Blocks in Empirical Legal Research: Case Study Research

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This article aims to make a contribution to those new to the case study method. It will examine the purpose of and why one may wish to undertake a case study, and work through the key elements of case study method including the main assumptions and theoretical underpinnings of this method. It will then turn to the importance of research design, including the crucial roles of the academic literature review, the research question and the use of rival theories to develop hypotheses in case study method. It will touch upon the relevance of identifying the observable implications of those hypotheses, and thus the selection of data sources and modes of analysis to allow for valid analytical inferences to be drawn in respect of them. In doing so it will consider, in brief, the importance of case study selection and variations like single or multi case approaches. Finally, it will conclude with some thoughts about the strengths and weaknesses associated with undertaking research via a case study method. It will address frequent stumbling blocks encountered by researchers, as well as ways so as to militate against common problems that researchers encounter. The discussion is necessarily cursory given the length of this article, but the footnotes provide much more detailed sources of guidance on each of the points raised here. This article is an introduction to a case study method rather than an analytical work on the method.
Original languageEnglish
JournalLaw and Method
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


  • Case Study
  • Empirical Legal Research
  • Methodology
  • Socio-legal studies


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