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date: 17 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Legal scholarship has its own distinctive place in the different disciplinary responses to digital humanities. It has long relied on databases of digitized sources and consequently on search as a research methodology. Computational tools provide means of addressing the limitations of search. This chapter surveys the use of computational tools to identify patterns of word use and borrowing and the diffusion of concepts in legal texts, to construct networks of relationships in texts and between individuals, to visualize spatial information, and to create 3D models of objects and structure as methods for both discovery and interpretation. These digital methods raise epistemological questions about how to address different questions and various kinds of sources, and what evidence is needed to support particular claims. Computational analysis expands the scale of the analysis, and the level of detail and context, making it possible to systematically explore claims about what is typical and representative and the periodization of historical discourses. Network graphs and maps visualize and measure relationships and spatial patterns in ways that capture a degree of complexity beyond what can be rendered in narrative. The implication of digital humanities for all humanities scholars is that we must look anew at our practices of research and analysis and critically reevaluate the nature and scope of the interpretative claims that we make.

Keywords: methodology, legal research, database, search, text analysis, topic modeling, mapping, networks, corpus linguistics, citation

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