Qualitative Methods for Law Review Writing, 84 U. Chi. L. Rev. 213 (2017)
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.