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Research Design in International Justice


Admission requirements

Required course(s):


Recommended course(s):

  • Legal Methods Lab

  • Qualitative Research Methods


In the International Justice major at LUC, students learn about international law, human rights and society, and statehood and integration. Courses in these tracks introduce you to various important concepts and theories, drawing on a range of academic studies. But how did the authors of those studies reach their conclusions? What difference would it have made for their findings had the authors phrased their questions differently, drawn on other data and sources, or employed different methods?

Such questions are at the heart of research design. This course introduces students to how you can design your own research project, on a question having to do with law and/or justice. We begin by exploring how gaps in the existing knowledge about a topic can be identified, and how a research question can be formulated in view of contributing to fill such a gap. We explore various types of such questions, as well as the kinds of data, sources and research methods that can allow you to develop arguments in response to them. We further examine ways in which such data can be collected, as well as how sources can be usefully drawn upon.

By introducing such strategies for research that are used in legal and socio-legal studies, the course provides hands-on training so as to give students a solid foundation for your Capstone.

Course Objectives

By taking this course and engaging with its content, students should be able:

  • to gain certain skills, in particular those of:
  1. writing a proposal for a research project that could be carried out on a question in one of the fields covered by the IJ major. This includes the skills of:
    A. formulating research questions,
    B. finding and classifying existing research and other sources that are relevant for the research question(s),
    C. relating the research question(s) to pertinent theories and methods,
    D. devising strategies for (i) gathering relevant data and/or sources, and (ii) identifying cases that may be useful to study; and
  • to gain knowledge, as manifested in the ability:
  1. to explain the distinction between doctrinal and empirical research on law,
  2. to account for how empirical research on law, specifically socio-legal methods, can complement and strengthen doctrinal legal research, and
  3. to discuss theories and concepts in research design, and the opportunities and limitations that come with different research strategies.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2021-2022 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Taught interactively, Research Design IJ allows for ample discussion of how questions related to law and justice can be done research on. In class, we will also debate how these ideas can be applied when designing a research project. Students will be expected to participate by raising questions and sharing ideas during class meetings and on a discussion forum, and by writing reflections about your evolving work on designing your own research project.

The core assignment is a research proposal, the aim of which is to flesh out ideas about how research can be conducted on a relevant question of your choice. The proposal outline will be due in Week 3 or 4. Next, workshops will take place where each student will present their outline and get feedback. In the final couple of weeks, each student will be expected to further develop their proposal in view of submitting the final, complete version by the end of the course.

Assessment Method

  • Research proposal outline, 25%

  • Reflections, 19%

  • In-class participation, 16%

  • Research proposal, 40%

Reading list

The reading list will be made available upon commencement of the course.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,