Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1395689
HUMAN RIGHTS QUARTERLY
3. Jan M. Smits,
Normative Legal Science: Towards an Argumentative Disci- pline
Fons Coomans, Fred Grüneld & MennoT. Kamminga
eds., 2009).4. Eva Brems,
Methods in Legal Human Rights Research
note 3, at 77.5.
. A recent study o methodological choices made in legal Ph.D. dissertations in theNetherlands ound a similar trend.
the eectiveness o international and domestic enorcement mechanisms,the degree o compliance with human rights standards by states and non-state actors, the role o human rights in oreign policy, the history o humanrights, or philosophical questions. Although human rights scholarship isoten regarded as the exclusive province o lawyers, it covers a much widerrange o disciplines.I there is, in act, a methodological defcit in human rights scholarship,it appears to aect legal research more than research perormed by socialscientists. This distinction may be caused by the dierent approaches o thesetwo disciplines. Lawyers are system builders; they rely on logic to determinewhether arguments are compatible with an existing normative ramework.Human rights may be, but are not necessarily, part o this normative set-ting.
Legal scholarship, thereore, has little to say regarding the impact o legal systems on the ground. It makes implicit assumptions in this regardand runs the risk o remaining disconnected rom reality. Social scientists,on the other hand, attempt to understand and explain social phenomena.Their fndings can be empirically challenged and verifed. However, theyrisk ignoring or misinterpreting applicable legal standards.A survey carried out among twenty-eight legally trained human rightsscholars ound that only hal o them had received any ormal training inmethodology.
The others had simply learned along the way. Even more alarm-ingly, only thirteen o the respondents said they always reected on the mostappropriate research method when starting work on a new research topic.And only three responded that, as a rule, they included in their publishedwork inormation on the research method used. A 2006 survey o scholarlyarticles contained in seven leading human rights law journals ound thattwenty-two out o ninety articles contained no explicit inormation on themethod used.
We are not aware o a similar survey o human rights scholarship bysocial scientists. Our impression, however, is that while social scientistsconducting research in the feld o human rights tend to do better than theirlegal colleagues, their work also requently leaves something to be desiredrom a methodological point o view. Social scientists also demonstrate atendency, or example, to omit an explanation o their research methodsin their publications. A survey o articles published in the interdisciplinary