Chicago Journal of International Law

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For over a hundred years, scholars have argued that international law should be studied using a “scientific” approach. Throughout the twentieth century, however, the most prominent methods used to study international law primarily consisted of different theoretical and analytical claims about how international law should be developed, interpreted, and critiqued. It is only in the first two decades of the twenty-first century that the conventional social science approach to research—identifying a specific question, developing hypotheses, using a research design to test those hypotheses based on some form of qualitative or quantitative data, and presenting conclusions, all while acknowledging the assumptions upon which these conclusions are based and the level of uncertainty associated with the results—became widely used by scholars of international law. International law research using the social science approach has been notably more normatively restrained, empirically informed, and skeptical than past international law scholarship. This Essay describes the rise of the social science approach and advocates for its continued adoption

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