While I've always believed that some qualitative techniques can complement quantitative work in many important ways, conventional wisdom too often positions qualitative and quantitative scholarship as somewhat at odds with one another. Moreover, over the years we've witnessed a significant migration of empirical legal scholarship from student-edited law reviews to faculty-edited peer-reviewed journals. Positioning itself at the intersection of these two points, Qualitative Methods for Law Review Writing outlines how legal scholars writing in law reviews can use qualitative methodological techniques from political science, sociology, and history to help support more generalizable, causal claims. In particular, the authors, Katerina Linos (Berkeley) and Melissa Carlson (grad student--political science), emphasize how legal scholars can use sampling and case selection techniques, as well as "process tracing," among other methods, to more effectively assess their claims' validity. While this paper is aimed at law review writing, its general point warrants broader attention. The paper's abstract follows.
"Typical law review articles not only clarify what the law is, but also examine the history of the current rules, assess the status quo, and present reform proposals. To make theoretical arguments more plausible, legal scholars frequently use examples: they draw on cases, statutes, political debates, and other sources. But legal scholars often pick their examples unsystematically and explore them armed with only the tools for doctrinal analysis. Unsystematically chosen examples can help develop plausible theories, but they rarely suffice to convince readers that these theories are true, especially when plausible alternative explanations exist. This project presents methodological insights from multiple social science disciplines and from history that could strengthen legal scholarship by improving research design, case selection, and case analysis. We describe qualitative techniques rarely found in law review writing, such as process tracing, theoretically informed sampling, and most similar case design, among others. We provide examples of best practice and illustrate how each technique can be adapted for legal sources and arguments."