In academic human rights research, especially legal human rights research, little attention tends to be devoted to questions of methodology. One reason for this may be that human rights scholars often are (former) human rights activists. Dispensing with methodological niceties enables them to engage in wishful thinking and to come up with the conclusions they were hoping to find in the first place. Furthermore, although much emphasis continues to be put on the need to carry out human rights research from a multidisciplinary perspective, the methods to be applied in such research remain far from clear.
Which criteria can be identified to qualify a piece of human rights research as a methodologically sound piece of work? Are there aspects and considerations that are typical for human rights research? What are good practices in human rights research? The book addresses these questions from the perspective of different scholarly fields relevant for human rights research: law (including international law and criminal law); social sciences (including criminology, political science, comparative politics, international relations and anthropology); and philosophy and history (the humanities).
This book is essential reading for any PhD candidate embarking on a dissertation in the field of human rights and any human rights scholar wishing to critically reflect on the quality of her/his own methods of work.
About the book
‘Methods of Human Rights Research is a long-awaited book for anyone interested in assessing and improving his or her methods of engaging with human rights research questions, including questions concerning transitional justice. The greatest merit of the volume could be summarized as methodological awareness raising. In addition, each chapter provides a number of suggestions and examples of research approaches and their applicability in practice. The book excels as an invitation for researchers – especially researchers working in multidisciplinary and applied research projects, such as numerous transitional justice research undertakings – to reflect critically on their work and the level of transparency in their methodological choices.
[It] will undoubtedly be of great assistance to those who want to broaden their perspective on how they have so far approached their research questions and what other alternatives they could, or should, consider. Readers designing or analyzing transitional justice research projects will have the benefit of a concise but comprehensive overview of possible methodological options and pitfalls before commencing their research.’
Evelyne Schmid in 2011 International Journal of Transitional Justice 159.
About the authors
Fons Coomans holds the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights and Peace at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University and is Coordinator of the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights.
Fred Grünfeld is Extraordinary Professor in the Causes of Gross Human Rights Violations at the Centre for Conflict Studies at the Faculty of Humanities of Utrecht University and Associate Professor of International Relations and the Law of International Organisations at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University and at the University College Maastricht.
Menno T. Kamminga is Professor of International Law at Maastricht University and Director of the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights.
A PRIMER (p. 11)
SOCIAL SCIENCE METHODS AND HUMAN RIGHTS (p. 19)
REDEFINING NORMATIVE LEGAL SCIENCE: TOWARDS AN ARGUMENTATIVE DISCIPLINE (p. 45)
HUMAN RIGHTS STUDIES: ON THE DANGERS OF LEGALISTIC ASSUMPTIONS (p. 59)
METHODS IN LEGAL HUMAN RIGHTS RESEARCH (p. 77)
THE NEED FOR EVIDENCE-BASED HUMAN RIGHTS RESEARCH (p. 91)
MEASURE FOR MEASURE: UTILIZING LEGAL NORMS AND HEALTH DATA IN MEASURING THE RIGHT TO HEALTH (p. 111)
METHODS IN HEALTH AND HUMAN RIGHTS RESEARCH: TOWARDS A SPIRAL OF CO-LEARNING (p. 135)
TELLING TRUTH? THE METHODOLOGICAL CHALLENGES OF TRUTH COMMISSIONS (p. 159)
METHODOLOGICAL CHALLENGES IN COUNTRY OF ORIGIN RESEARCH (p. 187)
TREATY INTERPRETATION AND THE SOCIAL SCIENCES (p. 213)
METHODS OF PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH ON HUMAN RIGHTS (p. 233)
The Maastricht Series in Human Rights facilitates and supports research in the field of human rights at the Maastricht Centre for Human Rights of Maastricht University’s Faculty of Law. The research is interdisciplinary, with a focus on public international law, criminal law and social sciences.
Volume in the series have been peer reviewed under the responsibility of the Board of the Centre. The Series is published under the editorial supervision of Professor Menno Kamminga and Professor Fons Coomans.
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