Skip to main content
Systematic Content Analysis of Judicial Opinions
California Law Review (2007)
  • Ronald F. Wright, Wake Forest University
  • Mark A. Hall, Wake Forest University

Our article traces the use of “content analysis” — a standard research technique in political science, communications, and other fields — to study judicial opinions. As it turns out, this is a high-growth area that nobody has noticed. We collect over 130 examples of such research projects that other scholars performed between 1956 and 2006, and draw lessons from the ways that scholars have used this technique, for good and for bad. We document the growth of this research technique, and offer guidance to future scholars on how best to adapt the standard requirements of the technique to the specialized needs of legal research.

Our discussion also articulates the epistemological assumptions that lie beneath content analysis, on the one hand, and traditional “interpretive” analysis of judicial opinions, on the other hand. This mapping of the epistemological divide between conventional legal scholarship and the other social science disciplines helps readers to see the path legal scholarship will follow as it integrates more closely with other parts of the academy.

  • Legal scholarship methodology,
  • law and social science
Publication Date
December, 2007
Citation Information
Ronald F. Wright and Mark A. Hall. "Systematic Content Analysis of Judicial Opinions" California Law Review (2007)
Available at: