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Study information

Quantitative Empirical Legal Research

Module titleQuantitative Empirical Legal Research
Module codeLAWM153
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Professor Richard Moorhead (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module covers core quantitative methods in socio-legal (empirical) research, developing a critical understanding of research design, data sources, data collection, and analysis in empirical research in law as well as the ethical issues raised.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module particularly aims to be enable to explain, critique, and apply core Quantitative methods in socio-legal research to research problems. As such it is essential preparation for the MRes dissertation and increasingly useful in fields such as legal design and legal services evaluation.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate a good understanding of how differing quantitative research designs and methods can be applied to socio-legal research questions
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to critically evaluate the appropriateness and execution of quantitative research methods, design and analytical approaches in socio-legal contexts
  • 3. Be aware of the range of ethical issues involved in empirical research in law.
  • 4. Be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of broadening quantitative techniques to include mixed methods approaches

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate and be able to apply sensible choices about quantitative research design to a research question
  • 6. Be able to critically evaluate quantitative research design, methods, and analytical choices in empirical research
  • 7. Demonstrate a knowledge of the key steps in delivering a research project deploying core methods including understanding quantitative data analysis and being able to make effective choices about data analysis

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 8. be able to use IT effectively and appropriately to help analyse data from a variety of sources;
  • 9. be able to critically reflect on research design, data collection and analysis;
  • 10. be able to undertake independent/self-directed learning (including time management) to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment;

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics (with some possible variation in the order of delivery):

  • The strengths and weaknesses of different quantitative research methods
  • The role and significance of research questions
  • Sampling for quantitative research
  • Design choices in quantitative work including mixed method approaches
  • Research Ethics, cross-cultural and cross-jurisdictional data.
  • Instrument choice and design
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Further methodological issues: cross-cultural and cross-jurisdictional data.
  • Practical research design exercises.


Teaching sessions will be a mixture of staff led discussion, student presentations, and practical exercises. Preparation for classes, which may include the submission of exercises in advance as part of the portfolio to be prepared for assessment, will be essential.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 1510 x 1.5-hour seminars
Guided Independent Study80Preparation for seminars / assigned seminar readings
Guided Independent Study25Preparation for, and writing of, the formative assessment
Guided Independent Study30Preparation for, and writing of, the summative assessment

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Draft portfolio entry learning exercise500 words1-10Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Portfolio of 5 learning exercises from the class1005 exercises (maximum total of 2,500 words)1-10Individual written feedback (with oral feedback upon request)

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Portfolio of 5 learning exercises from the class (maximum total of 2,500 words)Portfolio of 5 learning exercises from the class (maximum total of 2,500 words)1-10Referral/Deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Clark, T., Foster, L., Sloan, L & Bryman, A. (2021) Bryman’s Social Research Methods (6th Edition). Oxford University Press. A book worth having ready access to.
  • Cane, P. & Kritzer, H.M. (2010). Oxford Handbook of Empirical Legal Research. Introduction, pp1-8.
  • Clark et al (2021). Chapter 24 – Mixed Methods Research. In Bryman’s Social Research Methods. Oxford University Press.
  • Genn, H. (2009). ‘Hazel Genn and Paths to Justice’. In S. Halliday and P. Schmidt (Eds.) Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Chiu, W. H. (2018) Quantitative Legal Research. In M. McConville & W.H. Chiu, Research Methods for Law, Chapter 2, (pp 48-71)
  • Questionnaires/Surveys:
  • Pleasence, P., Balmer, N.J., Bick, A., O’Grady, A., & Genn, H. (2004). Multiple Justiciable Problems: Common clusters and their social and demographic indicators. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 19(2), 301-329.
  • Agunis, H., & Bradley, K.J. (2014). Best practice recommendations for designing and implementing experimental vignette methodology studies. Organizational Research Methods, 1-21.
  • Moorhead, R., & Cahill-O’Callaghan, R. (2016). False Friends? Testing commercial lawyers on the claim that zealous advocacy is founded in benevolence towards clients rather than lawyers’ personal interest. Legal Ethics, 19(1), 30-49.
  • Creswell, J.W (2014). Quantitative Methods (Chapter 8* Chapter 9 in previous editions). SAGE publications.
  • Pleasence. P. (2008). Trials and Tribulations: Conducting Randomized Experiments in a Socio-legal setting. Journal of Law and Society, 35, 8-29.
  • Pleasence, P. & Balmer, N.J. (2007). Changing fortunes: Results from a randomized trial of the offer of debt advice in England and Wales. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 4(3) 651-673.
  • Plano Clark, V.L., & Ivankova, N.V. (2016). Mixed Methods Research: A Guide to the Field. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage. Chapter 2 – What is the Core of Mixed Methods Research Practice?

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Quantitative Empirical Legal Research Skills

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date