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Abstract

Field-based research lies at the heart of human rights discourse and practice. Yet, there is a lack of consistency and coherence in the methodologies used and inadequate transparency regarding research methods in most human rights reporting. This situation opens work up to multiple challenges as to quality, veracity, and legitimacy. Although there have been repeated calls for greater methodological rigor through universal standards, general principles, and guidelines, human rights research remains diverse, uncoordinated, and disparate. This article explores these issues in relation to fact-finding, measuring violations, truth commissions, and emerging tools and technologies. It reviews how methodological debates reflect significant divisions among disciplines, differences in goals and objectives, distinct interests among various actors and organizations working on these issues, and the overall complexity of human rights research. The article argues against implementing universal research practices and for creatively and openly engaging debates regarding field-based methods. Such efforts can provide an essential corrective to unquestioned assumptions, enable greater transparency, and improve the overall quality and comparative value of human rights research.

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2019-10-13
2024-06-23
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