Lost in operationalisation: developing legally relevant indicators, questions and benchmarks
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonThis is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in International Journal of Human Rights on 13/06/2017, available online: 10.1080/13642987.2017.1336384
The main purpose of this article is to provide methodological guidance to students and researchers conducting quantitative studies on the realisation (outcome) of human rights law. The article focuses on the grey area between law and sociology. How to ensure a high score on legal relevance in quantitative socio-legal studies on the realisation of human rights law. To discuss this two disciplinary traditions are merged – sociology of law and human rights research on indicators and benchmarks. A key tool for making legally relevant questions in surveys are indicators. Benchmarks are also important for some provisions to determine if an obligation has been fulfilled by the state. The process of translating the law to indicators, questions and benchmarks is called operationalisation. Each operationalisation process must aim for a high score on legal relevance and it should be transparent and open to criticism. To first spend a lot of time and money on surveys and data collection, and then to miss the law one is pretending to measure is not just embarrassing, but hazardous to the protection of human rights, because people then have a tendency to rationalise and present alternative facts about the law.