Gathering your Data
Going “into the field” can take different shapes and forms while studying socio-legal or empirical-legal phenomena. It can mean that you are sitting behind your desk while collecting jurisprudence, legislation, official statistics or relevant policy documents that you want to analyze. This is often referred to as gathering secondary data, data that already exists and can be collected through desk research or archival research.
Going into the field can also mean that you are going out and about to gather data among (legal) experts or other respondents by interviewing them, observing them or conducting a survey. You are, in other words, gathering primary – new, non-existing - data.
Primary data collection methods can be divided into two groups: quantitative and qualitative. Simply put, quantitative research is expressed in numbers and graphs. It is used to test or confirm theories and assumptions. This type of research can be used to establish generalizable facts about a topic. Qualitative research on the other hand s expressed in words. It is used to understand concepts, thoughts or experiences. This type of research enables you to gather in-depth insights on topics that are not well understood. Your choice between quantitative or qualitative methods of data gathering depends on your research design.