A Note on Using Vignettes in Socio-Legal Research

Philip Leith


I report on the use of ‘vignettes’ in an on-line survey where the vignettes (or scenarios) were used to ascertain the beliefs of lawyers regarding the nature of merit.  The project was carried out for the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) and attempted – at low cost to NIJAC – to reflect the gender differences in attitudes to applying for appointment to Northern Ireland judicial posts. The results of that project appear elsewhere, but in this paper I suggest that vignette based research may be a suitable vehicle for other socio-legal projects since they allow an element of qualitative research
from a technique which is usually more directly quantitative.

The use of vignettes in this research was somewhat accidental in that no prior theoretical consideration had been given to their advantages or disadvantages, and they arose more from practical need rather than pre-considered reason.  However, having utilised these I suggest that socio-legal researchers might use and consider these as part of other research projects, and that they require some further discussion as to their particular utility within the socio-legal research field.


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