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Research Projects: A Guide

Updated: Jul 7

by Donald L. Horowitz, James B. Duke Professor of Law and Political Science Emeritus

Duke University


1. Start with a question of great practical or theoretical importance. Make it narrow enough to be answerable. Make sure the answer, one way or the other, will be of some significance.

2. See what others have said about it or about similar questions. This is a very pointed literature review.

3. Develop hypotheses: what might the answer(s) be?

4. Devise a research strategy to get the answers. What materials are available to help get to the answers.

5. Assess whether the strategy can be pursued. Are there obstacles to getting the material? Are there direct or proxy materials?

6. What if the answer is this or is that? Assess the significance of evidence pointing in one direction or another. If the evidence is indirect, can you do causal inference from what might be available?

7. Reassess the project as you do it. You may need to reframe the question, or the method, or the direction of the answers as they emerge. Be flexible.

8. Some conclusions may not be clear until you do the actual writing. That’s normal and is likely to contribute to the accuracy and significance of the findings.

9. But some omissions in the research may also become clear at that stage. You may need to fill them in or be explicit in leaving them for future research.


© 2020 by Donald L. Horowitz


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EDITORIAL TEAM

LEIGHA CROUT

Managing Editor

Leigha is an international human rights attorney. She received both her J.D. and an LL.M. in Civil & International Human Rights Law from the University of Notre Dame Law School, and a Masters of Professional Studies in international development from Cornell University. Her articles and writings on the implementation of international and regional human rights law and have been featured in the Notre Dame Journal of International and Comparative Law, the Cornell Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide, and the forthcoming book (Non)Sovereign Bodies: Law, Land, and Gender Justice.

ZHE HUANG

Contributing Regional Editor (East Asia)

Zhe Huang is an immigration lawyer in New York and a researcher of immigration law and Chinese property law. She received her SJD degree from University of Wisconsin Law School. Her research at Wisconsin focused on the social responsibilities of property rights on state-owned and collective-owned land in China. Her work has appeared in several U.S. and foreign journals. She received her LLM from Shanghai Jiao Tong University Law School. She is a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Asia Law Institute at NYU School of Law and her current research interests are comparative analyses between U.S. and China about the status of foreign workers and their rights to live and work under the immigration policies.

SHAMS AL DIN AL HAJJAJI

Contributing Regional Editor (Middle East and Africa)

Shams is a judge at North Cairo Primary Court, Egypt. Mr. Al Hajjaji started his career as a lawyer. Then, he joined the public prosecution bureau at the Egyptian Ministry of Justice. He holds a Doctorate degree (JSD) from University of California, Berkeley Law School (UC-Berkeley). In addition, he also holds three masters degree (LLM) from UC-Berkeley, American University in Cairo, and Cairo University (where he also earned his LLB).

SEBASTIÁN BOADA MORALES

Contributing Regional Editor (Americas)

Sebastián Boada Morales holds law degree from Universidad de Los Andes (Colombia) and an LL.M. (merit) in Banking Law and Financial Regulation from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He received scholarships from Colfuturo and the LSE for his masters degree, and he was awarded the academic excellence scholarship by Universidad de Los Andes during his undergraduate studies. He has been lecturer at Universidad de Los Andes. He was an elected member of the Board of Governors of Universidad de Los Andes, and he has been awarded the José Ignacio de Marquez prize for best scholarly article in Economic Law in Colombia. He was a runner up in the Latin American Banking Federation contest of specialized banking and finance articles. He wrote a book on financial derivatives in Colombia, and he has written book chapters and articles on Corporate Law and financial regulation. He is a senior associate in the Banking and Finance team at Baker McKenzie in Bogotá.