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08 August 2006


Bob Landers


This is a bit off-topic, but I find your comments interesting because I've personally been struggling with trying to fit doctrinal analysis into the traditional quantitative/qualitative dichotomy.

Since doctrinal analysis is more about interpretation and understanding than number crunching, I've always perceived it as being more aligned with qualitative research. Your comments suggest that you share this conclusion. However, if I understand qualitative methodology correctly, qualitative methods are very subjective and usually focus upon an a individual or group of actors (research subjects) and how what they have to say reveals their subjective interpretation of their situation or reality. In contrast, doctrinal analysis has always struck me as focussing more upon the actor's words (eg the judgment or the statutory text) rather than upon the actor himself/herself (eg the judge or the legislative draftsman). For this reason, although interpreting cases and statutes is a somewhat subjective enterprise insofar as the researcher is advancing a personal interpretation of the doctrinal data (which to me is very much akin to the grounded theory method utilised by qualitative researchers), doctrinal analysis still presents itself as an objective exercise - an attempt to get at the objective meaning of the judicial or legislative language. It does this by separating the language from the actor and the actor's (political or social) context. Consequently, although I see some similarity between the two, it still seems to me that doctrinal analysis does not sit very well with qualitative methodology.

Given my own thoughts, I'm curious about your rationale for classifying doctrinal analysis under the rubric of qualitative research, and whether your perceive a similar lack of "fit" as I have described.

By the way, do you know of any published work that discusses this issue? All of the scholarly material I've read on legal research appear to proceed on the basis that the qualitative/quantitative dichotomy only applies to the social sciences and is not useful for classifying legal research methods.


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