The role of science in legal research: expanding the limits of legal projects

Oplysninger om arrangementet


onsdag 10. januar 2024, kl. 09:00 - torsdag 11. januar 2024, kl. 13:00


Department of Law, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University, Bartholins Allé 16, 8000 Aarhus C, building-room 1410-247


Law often looks to science to answer core legal questions. Examples are many, including, the patentability of new medications, defining the levels of environmental risks, using the insanity defense in criminal proceedings, copyright and AI, and understanding consumers’ perception of green products. Concepts and data originating from various scientific fields, such as other social science branches, bioscience, and engineering are central to legal development and application of law, and thus to legal research. This challenges our traditional understanding of legal research as purely ‘the stringent application of legal research methods on sources of law to answer legal questions’.

Aspects from other scientific disciplines can find their way into legal projects through the formulation of research questions, the selection of research methods, and/or identification of sources we use to answer the research questions.

First of all, in the complex and increasingly interconnected world, legal research questions may contain considerations from other scientific fields. It happens when a research question includes terms and concepts originating in science and where the legal researcher cannot answer the question without engaging in methods or sources of other scientific fields. Secondly, some legal questions may be better answered using less common legal methods or methods ‘borrowed’ from other academic areas. Finally, when we speak of sources of law, it is presumed that we have a clear idea about what law is. However, with the transnational character of topical issues (such as public health, business relations, information, and climate change), the access to different sources of information online, and the trend towards legal pluralism, the definition of law, and thus also delimitation of sources of law becomes blurred. Moreover, even answers to dogmatic legal questions might need a recourse to scientific literature and data.

The course will thus focus on the role of science in legal research and the following expansion of the boundaries of legal research through considering scientific aspects in legal research questions, through applying less common research methods on legal questions including a scientific aspect, and through using non-traditional sources of law and literature and data from other scientific fields to augment legal research.

The purpose of this course is to:

  • engage in an academic discussion on the role of science in legal research and challenge the students’ ideas about the limits of legal research, and assess the participants’ projects in relation to those limits;
  • help PhD fellows to identify any aspects in their projects originating from other science fields and fine-tune and nuance their research questions in the light of what is possible using different traditional and less common methods and sources of law and information; and
  • help the students make methodological choices that facilitate answering their research questions while maintaining a sound research framework.

Learning outcomes

After participating in the course, the students will be able to:

  • explain whether and, if yes, why their projects include aspects of other science fields and, therefore, if and how their projects challenge the limits of traditional legal research;
  • choose appropriate methods and sources for legal projects involving scientific aspects;
  • justify the methodological choices they make to answer their research questions; and
  • assess the relevance and legal validity of different sources of law and information used in their projects.


Grants to partially cover travel and accommodation costs are available to participants upon application (via e-mail) to the course coordinators Viktoria Obolevich, Postdoctoral Researcher and Katerina Mitkidis, Associate professor, Department of Law, Aarhus University, .

The participation at the networking dinner is free of charge for the course participants.

Course coordinators

Viktoria Obolevich ( and Katerina Mitkidis (


  • Viktoria Obolevich, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Law, Aarhus University
  • Katerina Mitkidis, Associate Professor, Department of Law, Aarhus University
  • A guest speaker (TBA)


The discussions during both days will be guided by the participants’ project descriptions. Participants should be prepared to briefly introduce their own project and actively engage in constructive discussion about their peers’ projects. (Each participant will serve as a discussant for one project description.)


Morning session  - ‘Limits of legal research’

This session will address what is commonly understood by traditional legal research. We will touch upon traditional legal research topics, traditional legal methods, and traditional legal sources.

We will discuss if we can discern purely legal research from other scientific disciplines and what the distinguishing features are.

Afternoon session –‘Challenging the limits of legal research through research questions’

The afternoon session will be devoted to research topics and questions on and beyond the limits of legal research. Such research topics may, for example, deal with topics on the border of law and natural science fields, psychological and behavioural aspects of law, or the intersection between law and policy. The specific topics will be derived from the participants’ projects.

We will discuss how to assure that the research questions do stay within the realm of legal research and how these topics may be approached through legal methods.


Morning session – ‘Challenging the limits of legal research through methods’ and ‘Challenging the limits of legal research through sources’

During ‘Challenging the limits of legal research through methods’ session, participants will be introduced to selected research methods, originating from other science fields, such as interviews, empirical inquiry into publicly available information, quantitative methods, behavioural experiments, and functional comparisons. We will also discuss when the application of such a method is necessary, when it improves the project, and when it may actually weaken the project.  

The ‘Challenging the limits of legal research through sources’ session will focus on the definition of law and legal sources, and on the possibility and value in using other than legal sources and data. In this respect, we will discuss how far participants can deviate from legal sources, official publications, and traditional legal scholarly writings to answer their research questions and whether they can apply traditional legal methods on ‘new’ sources of law.


The participants are required to send a summary (max. 3 pages) of their research project to Viktoria Obolevich ( as early as possible and latest by 7 November 2023.

This relatively early deadline will allow the course coordinator to shape the programme as much as possible to participants’ needs. As part of the summary, students are required to analyze whether their project includes some aspects from other scientific disciplines and, if so, where (in research questions, methods or used sources), the description of the chosen (or contemplated) research methods and justification of those methods.

Ca. 200 pages of reading material will later on be assigned for the course, including specific questions to some of the readings. These will be discussed in the different sessions.

The students are required to read all the project summaries and the selected reading materials. Each participant is required to analyze and comment on the summary of a peer assigned to them.


After the end of the PhD course, PhD fellows are welcome to participate at a workshop dedicated to the same topic (11-12 January 2024). There will be possibility for limited number of PhD students to present their project at the workshop. If you are interested, please note it in your registration.

Read more about the workshop on




In case you have questions regarding the content and assignments of the course please contact the course coordinator Viktoria Obolevich (


Please register with Annemarie Lai Jensen ( 1 November 2023.