Friday, January 11, 2008

Doctrine + Statistics = Crazy Delicious

I tend to lose sight of the normative legal question when I get bogged down in research design (particularly when I'm looking through some directory of Awesome Part of the Country businesses trying to figure which ones to include in my sampling frame). I admit that.

But as I pack up my books (again) and blow the dust off of my constitutional law and political theory books and seriously consider donating my Critical Race Theory books and contemplate the new shelf of statistical methods and social science methods books that take their place (on my night stand), I have to ask myself: what kind of scholar do I imagine myself, what kind of scholar am I training myself to be, and what kind of scholar do I want to be ten years from now?

I don't want to rehash the fox v. hedgehog debate. Blah blah roving hedgehog blah blah methodological fox. Or whatever I will be. I imagine there's no escaping mixed methods for the future of legal scholarship: everyone should have some background in theory, be able to do doctrinal analysis (case crunching), and be at least able to read statistics (if not do your own models).

But it's interesting that people are still pegging themselves as either/or, and that sometimes I do that myself. It's more emphasis than anything, of course, and I imagine my work will emphasize sociolegal methods, but I like theoretical work as well.

Someone once remarked to me kindly and solicitously, that I may come off as "too social sciencey" at AALS. Their intent is helpful, and I appreciate it. I am slightly worried, but I'm also rather flattered, because I actually struggle with coming up with testable hypotheses, valid research questions, and still don't read tables with that quick a fluency. Nevermind coming up with my own data and analysis, that's still a bit off. This is why my project is mostly qualitative.

It's just funny to me the rhetoric of division: qualitative/quantitative (within the social sciences); doctrinal/empircal (in the legal academy; normative/descriptive (anywhere, but I think this distinction is false and meaningless since everything has a normative angle, even numbers).

I haven't read a case or a real law review article in a little while. That is weird. It is telling that my JSTOR and HeinOnline accounts are used more than my Westlaw accounts.


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