Improving the Credibility of Empirical Legal Research: Practical Suggestions for Researchers, Journals and Law Schools
Fields closely related to empirical legal research (ELR) are enhancing their methods to improve the credibility of their findings. This includes making data, analysis codes and other materials openly available on digital repositories and preregistering studies. There are numerous benefits to these practices, such as research being easier to find and access through digital research methods. However, ELR appears to be lagging cognate fields. This may be partly due to a lack of field-specific meta-research and guidance. We sought to fill that gap by first evaluating credibility indicators in ELR, including a review of guidelines for legal journals. This review finds considerable room for improvement in how law journals regulate ELR. The remainder of the article provides practical guidance for the field. We start with general recommendations for empirical legal researchers and then turn to recommendations aimed at three commonly used empirical legal methods: content analyses of judicial decisions, surveys and qualitative studies. We end with suggestions for journals and law schools.