The comparative method in (socio-)legal research

Level - Target audience

The course is aimed to PhD researchers who have conducted, are conducting or are planning to conduct a comparative analysis within the course of their research project. The course focuses on the different steps of comparative research and the different methods that can be used to conduct such research, with a specific focus on legal research and to a smaller extent on criminological, sociological, political and historical and research. No foreknowledge is expected from the participants. Their preparation mainly entails a two-page outline describing their research (with a specific focus on the comparative analysis they have conducted or are planning to conduct) as well as a reading assignment. Participants are expected to be able to discuss with other participants in English (language in which the course will be given). The course is aimed both at PhD Researchers who are in the beginning of their research project and to PhD Researchers who are already in an advanced stage of their project.


  • Prof. Dr. Wendy De Bondt - UGent Faculty of Law and Criminology - Department: Department of Criminology, Criminal Law & Social Law


Other member(s) of the organising & scientific committee

  • Nele Audenaert (PhD Researcher, UGent Department of Criminology, Criminal Law & Social Law)


In this specialist courses, PhD Researchers will be handed the right tools to conduct a comparative analysis in a methodologically sound manner, by (i) broadening their theoretical background on the topic and by (ii) providing the participants with feedback on their action plan for conducting such an analysis or on the methodological chapter in their thesis. Therefore, this course will tackle the goals of comparative research (when it should and should not be used) and the appropriate steps as well as the different methods and phases to conduct a comparative research.


This specialist course relates to the topic of using the comparative method in (socio-)legal research. Both within and outside the Doctoral Schools Training programme, courses on how to conduct a comparative analysis are only rarely organised. As such, PhD Researchers often conduct a comparative analysis without a scientific, methodological basis. It would be very useful to give a clear overview of the different methods of comparative research and their (dis)advantages, as well as of the main aspects that must be borne in mind when conducting a comparative analysis. This specialist course aims to not only broaden the theoretical knowledge of the participants on comparative research, but also to hand them the right tools to apply the different methods in practice in a methodological justified manner.


This course aims to inform PhD Researchers about the different goals and different phases of comparative research.

  1. The participants will be encouraged to make strategic and scientific choices when selecting their subjects, to choose the right method to find the objects that need to be compared and to follow the phases of comparative research in a methodologically sound manner.
  2. Participants will also be made aware of the possible hurdles they might face when conducting a comparative analysis as well as of the potential pitfalls when using the comparative method. Not only will theoretical insights on these topics broaden the researchers’ knowledge, but also practical exercises and concrete examples will help start the participants to conduct or finalise their own comparative research project.
  3. Finally, based on the theoretical parts of the course and the practical exercises in that regard, participants will be asked to develop and present their own “action plan” or methodological chapter of their thesis. Each participant will have to discuss what they would like to compare, how they would like to do this and how they would scientifically justify their choices. Both the lecturer and the other participants will provide feedback on this action plan, ensuring that each participant will be provided with concrete guidelines on how to finalise their comparative research in a successful manner.


From Tue 23 February to 5 March 2021

Tentative program

  • Day 1   Tue 23 February 2021
    9.00 Short introduction to the course & round table based on the participants’ research questions (1 hour) in ZOOM
    10.15 Short break
    10.45 Theory on the framework of comparative research: definition & goals (2 + 1/2 hours) in ZOOM
  • Day 2   Fri 26 February 2021
    9.30 Theory on the core of comparative research: the art of selecting subjects and objects and the methods to find research materials (2+ 1/2 hours) in ZOOM
    Lunch break
    13.00 – 14.30 Practical exercises in groups of 4 in break-out rooms (1 + ½ hour)
    14.30 – 16.00 Interactive session: reflection on the practical exercises + feedback (1 + ½ hour) in ZOOM
  • Day 3    Tue 2 March 2021
    9.30 Theory on the different phases of comparative research (2+ 1/2 hours) in ZOOM
    Lunch break
    13.00 – 15.00 Individual reflection on action plan
    15.00 – 16.30 Discussion of action plans in groups of 4 in break-out rooms + feedback of lecturer
  • Day 4    Fri 5 March 2021
    9.30 Presentations participants + feedback of lecturer (2 + 1/2 hours)
    Lunch break
    13.30 Presentation participants + feedback of lecturer (2 + ½ hours)


Prof. Dr. Annemarie Elizabeth (Marieke) Oderkerk earned her BA’s, MA’s and PhD from the University of Amsterdam. She currently works as a researcher and associate professor in the field of comparative law and private international law at the Law Faculty of the University of Amsterdam. Until 2007, she has been research coordinator of the Amsterdam Institute of Private Law as well. Since 2009 she is a member of the Center for the Study of European Contract Law. Her most recent research included an extensive study of the comparative law methodology in 2017 with Prof. Dr. Adams and Prof. Dr. Husa.
Affiliation: Faculty of Law, Department of Private Law, University of Amsterdam

Registration fee

Free of charge


Participants can register by sending an e-mail to Afterwards, each participant will receive concrete instructions to be able to prepare the course (more specifically instructions for sending in the two-page outline, as well as specific reading instructions).

Teaching methods

Lectures on the theory of comparative research.
Presentations by participants.
Practical group exercises.
Interactive discussions.
Homework before and during the course (two-page outline, reading assignment, preparation of the action plan/methodological chapter of the thesis).

Teaching material

The teaching material will mainly consist of a literature list of basic literature on conducting a comparative analysis and, where possible, the full texts of those articles that are crucial in this field. It will be complemented with the PowerPoint presentations of the lecturer and the presentations of the PhD Researchers.

Number of participants

Maximum 20 participants. Participation of PhD Researchers that are member of the Doctoral Schools of Arts, Humanities and Law of the Ghent University and have a legal background will be given priority over the other categories.

Evaluation criteria (doctoral training programme)

The course will be evaluated by attendance (100%) and by the development of an action plan/methodological chapter for their own research project and the presentation thereof. Before the start of the course, participants will also be asked to send in a two-page outline describing their research (with a specific focus on the comparative analysis they have conducted or are planning to conduct) as well as to read a few articles on the comparative methodology.