University of Chicago Law Review

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Legal scholars, lawyers, and judges frequently make positive claims about the state of legal doctrine. Yet despite the profligate citation norms of legal writing, these claims are often supported in a somewhat imprecise way—such that the exact evidence is unclear or difficult for others to probe or falsify. In response to similar issues, other disciplines have developed methodological standards for conducting “systematic reviews” that summarize the state of knowledge on a given subject. In this Essay we argue that methods for performing systematic reviews that are specifically tailored to legal analysis should be developed. We propose a simple fourstep process that could be used whenever someone is trying to make objective claims about the state of legal doctrine, and we illustrate the value of this method by applying it to doctrinal claims that have been made in recent legal scholarship.