Why the Study of International Law Needs Experiments

64 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2013 Last revised: 11 Sep 2015

See all articles by Adam S. Chilton

Adam S. Chilton

University of Chicago - Law School

Dustin H. Tingley

Harvard University - Department of Government

Date Written: February 3, 2014


Scholarship on international law has undergone an empirical revolution. Throughout the revolution, however, shortcomings of the observational data that studies have used have posed serious barriers to reliable causal inference. During the same period, political scientists and legal scholars studying domestic law have increasingly employed experimental methods because they make it easier to make credible causal claims. Despite the simultaneous emergence of those trends, there have been relatively few attempts to use experimental methods to study international law. This should change. In this paper we present the first argument that the study of international law could uniquely benefit from the use of experimental research methods. To make this argument, we present data we have collected that illustrates why observational studies will often be unable to provide answers to many of the most important questions to legal scholars. After doing so, we provide guidance on how laboratory, survey, and field experiments can be used by legal scholars to research international law.

Keywords: International Law, Experiments, Empirical Legal Studies, Treaties, Compliance, Survey Experiments

Suggested Citation

Chilton, Adam S. and Tingley, Dustin H., Why the Study of International Law Needs Experiments (February 3, 2014). Columbia Journal of Transnational Law, vol. 52, no.1, p. 173, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2343471

Adam S. Chilton (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

1111 E. 60th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.adamchilton.org

Dustin H. Tingley

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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