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Lee Epstein
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Lee Epsteing Ethan A.H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor
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ON THE EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION OF THE RESULTS OF EMPIRICAL STUDIES, PARTS I and II

Part I: Published in 2006. Vanderbilt Law Review. 59: 1811-1871.
Part II: Published in 2007. Vanderbilt Law Review 60:101-146.

Lee Epstein
Andrew D. Martin
Matthew M. Schneider (Part I)
Christina L. Boyd (Part II)

Abstract: Part I

To claim that empirical work is a fundamental part of legal scholarship borders on the boring. It has been said (and documented) too many times for us to recount here; even the AALS acknowledged the increasing centrality of empirical work when it devoted its 2006 annual meeting to the topic.

Unfortunately, though, neither law professors nor their audiences are fully reaping the benefits of empirical work. The primary problem is that while legal academics are producing high quality research, they have been less effective at communicating the products of their labor. A strong devotion to tabular, rather than graphical, displays, and the discussion of “statistical significance” rather than substantive importance, are just two areas requiring improvement.

Adapting a burgeoning literature in the social and statistical sciences to the unique interests of legal scholars, in what follows we supply general suggestions for improving the communication of empirical studies. In the next installment (also to appear in the Vanderbilt Law Review), we outline more specific strategies aimed at effectively (and accessibly) presenting data and statistical results, and from these devise a set of protocols for implementation by legal publications.

Click here for Part I (.pdf).

Abstract: Part II

While law professors are increasingly making use of data in their scholarship and while the data work housed in their studies is (generally) of a high quality, they have been less effective at communicating the products of their labor. A strong devotion to tabular, rather than graphical, displays, and claims about "statistical significance" rather than substantive importance, are just two areas requiring improvement.

Here, as in Part I, we attempt to adapt a burgeoning literature in the social and statistical sciences to the unique interests of legal scholars. Our proposals are many in number, but none are particularly difficult to implement. More to the point, we believe that law professors should want to implement them. If other fields are any indication, moving toward more appropriate and accessible presentations of data will heighten the impact of empirical legal scholarship regardless of the audience—no doubt a desirable goal in a discipline that rightfully prides itself on its contributions to forming legal and public policy.

Click here for the final edited version of Part II (.pdf).