The programme includes the following sessions:
Overview of Research Methods
As the introductory session of the research methods summer school, it will provide an overview of various qualitative and quantitative research designs and methods, drawing on human rights-related research projects as illustrations. The session will also examine the rationale underpinning the choice of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, distinguishing between interpretive and positivist approaches.
Measuring Human Rights: Reliance on Indicators
Does human rights law “work”? Have government efforts led to improved outcomes? How can we determine whether human rights advocacy efforts are having an impact? Researchers, advocates, and international bodies have increasingly turned to human rights indicators to answer questions like these. This session will consider the major approaches to human rights indicators and examine the difficulties researchers face in trying to create valid measures of human rights outcomes. Finally, this session will assess the promise and perils of embracing this approach to evaluating human rights progress.
Role of Databases
Do human rights treaties make a difference? This question has plagued human rights scholars and advocates for decades and spurred a turn to quantitative analysis and the creation of human rights databases. Some human rights databases attempt to track human rights outcomes on the ground, while others seek to identify, classify, and quantify implementation of human rights obligations. This session will continue to provide a review of existing human rights databases and explore the types of questions that databases can help us answer. In addition to probing their purpose and utility, this session will also consider critiques of an increased reliance on data and explore alternative methodologies to understanding human rights outcomes.
Socio-Economic Statistics and Administrative Statistics
This session will examine the use of socio-economic and administrative statistics, which involves using existing or creating new indicators for governmental activity that has a bearing on the implementation and enjoyment of human rights, including input, process, output, outcome, and impact indicators. The United Nations has developed a framework for incorporating these kinds of measures into the work of treaty bodies, as well as other kinds of human rights project work.
Types of Indicators: Survey - and Standards-Based Measures
This session will look at ‘standards-based’ measures of human rights practices that code country performance on ordinal scales for comparative analysis and survey-based measures based on perceptions and experiences of human rights practices. Standards-based scales are very popular in development work and policy analysis at a higher level of abstraction, and have formed a large part of the existing social science literature on explaining the cross-national and time-series variation in human rights protection. Survey-based measures rely on designing and administering questionnaire instruments to samples of the population within countries, and have been used to assess a wide range of human rights violations experienced by particular parts of the population. For both types of measures, discussion will focus on sources of information, types of samples, external and internal validity, and the limitations of each style of measurement and assessment.
Big Data Methods for Monitoring Implementation
This session will examine the use of big data to monitor human rights implementation. By linking deidentified administrative (government) data sources, combined with geo-coded neighbourhood deprivation indices, it is possible to undertake research that provides insight into the characteristics and circumstances of deprivation within a country. The session will focus on a research project that identified pockets of deprivation in New Zealand by using these data sets. It assessed whether people living with multiple deprivations were able to enjoy the uptake of their social rights. In particular, it examined government initiatives responding to Universal Periodic Review recommendations, to determine whether the UPR process helped reduce inequities.
Overview of Qualitative Techniques and Data Practices
Qualitative methods are varied but largely adopt three broad approaches: qualitative interviewing, ethnographic method and qualitative text analysis. This session will discuss these methods in detail. In addition, qualitative approaches are generally informed by a particular understanding of how knowledge and ‘evidence’ can be generated. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘epistemology’, or ‘how we know what we know’. This session will offer background on these debates before introducing some landmark studies that have adopted these techniques.
Data analysis is far more than simply providing a summary of interview transcripts. This session will cover: how to transcribe interviews; how to identify patterns in the data; and how to make sense of research material using discourse analysis.
Single Case Study
The session will focus on how to carry out legal and qualitative single case studies, its effects and impact. The focus will then shift to: Why choose a single case study in human rights? How to select such a case? How to justify such a selection? Participants will be invited to consider the design and findings of a comparative (both country and thematic) funded research project. The purpose will be to prompt participants to suggest how a single case study could have been more illuminating? What would have been lost in a single case study? Attention will then shift to a single case study to assess the richness it can offer, and the selection justification it requires. The session will end with writing case-selection justification exercises and the evaluation of these justifications.
Comparative Case Studies
Comparative case studies method is a popular research method that involves the examination of similarities, differences and patterns across two or more cases to generate knowledge that enables insights about causal questions. This session will examine methodologies for comparing case studies, depending on both the purpose of the comparison and the number of cases being compared. It will draw on legal, qualitative, and quantitative comparative human-rights related projects to provide examples of these approaches.
How we do our work and conduct research into human rights violations is (or should be!) as important as what we produce at the end of an investigation. This session will focus on research methodology development and factors to consider when planning to research and document human rights violations and abuses. The idea will be to be as practical as possible, highlighting the key stages of research methodology development, why and how each of these stages is crucial to contribute to the success of the research and or campaign, as well as to guarantee accountability and transparency in our work. Some of the key ethical and safety issues that may need to be considered from the outset as well as during a research project will also be aired and opened up to discussion.
Interviewing Survivors of Torture
Survivors of human rights violations will understand their experiences differently and will have different goals when seeking to speak with a lawyer or human rights advisor. This session will explore how to carry out interviews which 'do no harm' while at the same time elicit the necessary information about what happened, what the survivors' wishes are, and put the interviewer in the position to provide preliminary advice (if that is what the interviewee is seeking). Some of the challenges to be explored include: the impact of trauma and the passage of time on memory; how to deal with persons in vulnerable situations; interpreters; how to avoid interviews from negatively impacting subsequent official investigations; and what constitutes responsible follow-up.
How suitable are focus groups for human rights research and research on discrimination in particular? This session will discuss the use of this method in researching groups living on the margins of society. Starting with practical examples of research on discrimination of Roma in East-Central Europe, the session will address some of the key methodological issues including framing the questions, consent, selection of participants, language of the discussion, and confidentiality when talking about sensitive issues in a group. The session will critically examine the use of the method of focus groups in relation to other conventional research methods such as interviews or surveys. We will also explore the method’s potential for individual or community empowerment and its limitations.
Human Rights Research in Countries Lacking the Rule of Law
How should human rights researchers respond to what academics and observers call “rule of law backsliding”? This session will focus on methodology considerations of research in situations when the constitutional order has been marginalized and will aim to address two main questions. How to identify the absence of the rule of law? What are the methodological implications of the absence of the rule of law? It will discuss Turkey, Poland, Hungary, Brazil and the USA and also draw on the available research from the 1970s and 1980s on authoritarian regimes in Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
Use of Open Source Data
This session will look at the added value and process of using open source data and remote sensing technologies for human rights research. Using practical examples and hands on exercises, participants will learn current best practices for establishing analytical questions, finding and securing open source data, triangulating information, and assessing veracity. The session will also provide an overview of and practice of using satellite images and other remote sensors for human rights investigations.
Documenting Harm and Claiming Reparations
Reparation remains the most victim friendly tool of transitional justice. Nevertheless, ensuring reparation in a transitional justice context is more than a challenge. The session will deal with how to document harm in such situations, where and when to claim reparations and how to submit strong claims without producing re-victimisation. The session will look into various forms of doing this while taking into account gender, cultural and religious issues.
Experimental methods is a field of growing importance in the social sciences and policy/impact evaluation. Experiments enable social scientists and applied researchers to draw valid inferences about cause and effect. This session will provide an introduction to experimental methods. It will discuss different experimental methods including field, survey, and lab experiments using applications from the study of human rights.