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2022 Institutions for Conflict Resolution Skills Lab

On Friday, 2 December 2022, PhD candidates connected to the Institutions for Conflict Resolution (COI) research group participated in a Skills Lab focusing on the skill of writing empirical legal research papers.

Like the previous skills lab, this lab focused on the skill of writing empirical legal research papers, to share insights on this topic with PhDs who have more recently joined COI as well. The previous meeting yielded such lively discussions that there was more than enough left to talk about. Hence, we were delighted that Jessie Pool and Niek Strohmaier were willing to teach another lab about this important topic.

The first subject to be addressed was the question for which audience to write, as there are few journals that offer the opportunity to publish papers that elaborate on both legal and empirical aspects of the research. Therefore, Niek and Jessie advised that it can be recommendable to split a publication into two papers: one paper on the empirical aspects of the research aimed at an international audience, and one on the legal aspects of the research aimed at a national audience. One question that rises then is how much detail the methods section should contain and how to explain statistical procedures in a clear way, for example.

We also spent some time discussing the structure of more empirical versus more legal papers. Whereas empirical papers often roughly follow the same structure (Introduction, Method, Results, Discussion), legal papers have much less of a fixed format, with their structure depending to a large extent on their content. This discussion led to the question how systematic legal research is or should be and what that means for the scientific character of the legal discipline. 

Final topics that were addressed included the attention given to normative implications of the research, and the publication process. With regard to normative implications, Niek and Jessie noted that this is often the most interesting part of legal papers: what do the findings mean for the law and what can or should be done with them? For social scientific papers it can be difficult to reflect on normative implications, also because that is often not where social scientists’ expertise lies. Collaboration between legal scholars and social scientists might be key here. 

With regard to the publication process, Niek and Jessie explained how peer review works, and discussed the different roles of cover letters and response to reviewer documents when writing for legal versus social scientific journals. After the lab, we continued our conversations on these and other topics over drinks and bites in a nearby café. Many thanks again to Niek and Jessie for sharing their views, and to the COI PhDs for actively participating in the discussions!

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