Centre news
02.09.2020

Research Methods in Fundamental Rights

In an online CIVICA workshop, organised by the Hertie School’s Centre for Fundamental Rights, PhD researchers and early career researchers discussed different methods in fundamental rights research and their implementation.


The three-day online workshop, which took place from 19 - 21 August 2020, focused on four method groups and their implementation for fundamental rights research. The workshop, which brought together PhD researchers and postdoctoral researchers from different universities, was hosted by the Hertie School's Centre for Fundamental Rights within the framework of CIVICA – The European University of Social Sciences and was funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

In the first seminar, dedicated to comparative research methods, Cathryn Costello, Co-director of the Centre for Fundamental Rights and the Hertie School’s Professor of Fundamental Rights, discussed with the participants the “Why, what and how of comparison”, with a focus on the question of case selections in comparative research. In a session focused on normative methodology, Dr. Alain Zysset, Lecturer in Public Law at the School of Law, University of Glasgow, and a visiting fellow at the Hertie School's Centre for Fundamental Rights, explained what is special about normative methodology and how such methodology can be implemented in human rights research.

Dr. Dilek Kurban, human rights lawyer, fellow and lecturer at the Hertie School, opened the second day of the workshop with a seminar on socio-legal research methods.  In her presentation, Kurban emphasised both the importance of being mindful of socio-legal approaches in human rights research as well as of the differences between a bottom-up and a top-down approach to the interpretation of the law. Mark Dawson, Professor for European Law at the Hertie School, led a seminar on the implementation of process tracing methods and discussed with the participants of the workshop the relationship between the research objective, the research question and the research method.    

The workshop participants had the opportunity to present their own research project, to discuss their research methods and to receive feedback from faculty and participants. Constanze Edelhoff, PhD researcher at the European University Institute (EUI), who presented her research on lawyering for migrant rights in Europe, concluded that the workshop was a great opportunity to get some insights into and feedback on her research project and methodology:  “The lectures, discussions and readings have opened up new methods to me that I am now considering using for my own project. I particularly enjoyed reading about and discussing the research projects of the other participants, which were at different stages of development and touched upon a great variety of questions all relating to fundamental rights. Apart from the academic value, I found it helpful to get some more experience in presenting my work and ideas and to develop a peer network, which is incredibly valuable during the PhD process." 

Mirko Dukovic, SJD Candidate in Comparative Constitutional Law at the Central European University, said that attending this workshop has made an important impact on his work. “First, it helped me re-plan my thesis and research dynamics, especially given the topic of my research, and methods that we have been introduced to have influenced the categorization of my research questions. This, in turn, showed me that there are many more possibilities for tackling certain aspects I am working on in my thesis, so that I can produce more coherent answers, but also have more comprehensive and better structured research. Second, I feel that some of the tools that have been presented to us influence the way I think about my upcoming work in publishing shorter research papers,” Mikro specified. “I strongly recommend to anyone, who is in the initial stage of their research, to apply for this programme, both for the purpose of learning the outcomes it gives, but also for the friendly and open academic atmosphere that the hosts provided us with,” he concluded. Mirko's PhD reaserch analyses regulatory avenues in 3D bioprinting of human tissues.

Betül Durmuş, PhD researcher at Koç University, emphasized the contribution that this workshop had on her research, which asks which normative models are employed by international human rights law practice in the relationship between the rights of the child and parental control. “I have gained so much information from the instructors, the assigned readings, the papers of my fellow participants, and the lively discussion during the workshop, which I could never receive on my own. After the workshop, I have a clearer vision of how to answer my research question and more confidence in developing the normative aspects of my research methodology. The workshop helped me not only with my current project but also equipped me well for future human rights projects. I strongly recommend this workshop to all doctoral researchers at any level."