General Course Information

1.1 Course details

Course code: LLAW7002
Course name: Design and Methods for Qualitative Legal Research
Programme offered under: Research Programme
Semester: Second

1.2 Course description

The seminar will introduce basic issues of research design and method for single case studies and small-n comparison.  It provides an overview of the essential features of any explanatory research project, that is, research that seeks to develop a causal account of law, as cause or effect, or both.  The seminar also generates a check-list of common problems a student writing a thesis should seek to avoid or to mitigate. Those who are not interested in type of explanation described here will have little use for this course.

Participants will become familiar with some of the basic methodological issues that are routinely encountered in qualitative and comparative research.  Major topics and questions to be covered include:

– What is research design, and how are “methods” and “data collection and analysis” related?

– What is a “case”?

– How to move from a “concept” to a “variable.”

– How to write a good literature review and prospectus.

– How to manage the problem of “selection bias.”

– How to use case studies, and small-n comparison, to develop and test explanatory theory.

– How to identify, build, or use explanatory “frameworks,” in the absence of existing causal theory.

– What are the relative costs and benefits of qualitative research relative to qualitative research?

The seminar will be graded Pass/Fail. It is expected that students will consider course materials in the development of their own original research and writing. Attendance and full participation are required to pass, which will include (1) writing three short discussion papers responding to the required readings, and (2) presenting an analytical literature review, thesis prospectus, or research paper to the class and other participants in weeks 10 and 11.

1.3 Course teachers

Name E-mail address Office Consultation
Course convenor Alec Stone Sweet asweet@hku.hk CCT 903 By email

Learning Outcomes

2.1 Course Learning Outcomes (CLOs) for this course

CLO 1 Analyse and assess published qualitative research that presents causal explanations of legal phenomenon.

CLO 2 Write a literature review and prospectus of profession quality.

CLO 3 Identify different types of case studies and their role in building testable propositions.

CLO 4 Explain when selection bias can be justified, and how.

CLO 5 Discuss how a concept can be operationalized as a causal variable.


3.1 Assessment Summary

Assessment task Due date Weighting Feedback method
Every student must complete and submit a literature review, prospectus, paper, or thesis chapter to be reviewed. TBC 100% Individual written and oral feedback on literature review, prospectus, paper, or thesis chapter

3.2 Assessment Detail

To be advised by course convenor.

3.3 Grading Criteria

Students will be assessed on a pass/fail basis.

Learning Resources

4.1 Resources

Reading materials: Reading materials are posted on Moodle
Core reading list: TBA
Recommended reading list: TBA