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Critical Discussions in Methodology

The aim of the initiative is to foster methodological cross-pollination across the various Max Planck Law Institutes, with an ambition to produce new methodological knowledge. The idea is to have regular peer-to-peer discussions between PhDs and postdocs with an emphasis on critical evaluation of existing methodologies, collate reports on those discussions, and eventually develop these reports into collections of essays. The ambition is that these collections would come out at a fairly steady cycle and that the initiative develops into a long-term project. This would not only increase the methodological range of individual early-career researchers, but also increase the visibility of the Max Planck Law network and build collaborative connections across the Institutes.

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Exploring historical analogies in ECB speeches through Text Mining (1997-2019): some methodological remarks

Presentation online by Anselm Küsters

24 June 2021, 16.00 CEST.


In recent work (an early working paper version can be found here), I employed so-called text mining methods such as structural topic modeling to examine all 2,135 speeches by ECB Executive Board members between February 1997 and October 2019. These new methods from the rapidly growing field of digital humanities allowed me to identify and analyze a significant semantic change that occurred in ECB communication in the transition from Great Moderation to Great Recession. The methodology also allowed for a structured and empirical assessment of the hypothesis that central bankers used ‘lessons from the past’ during the crisis. The quantitative and qualitative results indicate that references to historical analogies indeed increased at the height of the crisis (2009­–11) but often served only rhetorical functions. In my talk, I will present some of the text mining methods that I have applied as part of this research and then use the empirical results as a starting point for a broader methodological discussion, reflecting on how digital humanities approaches are changing our research designs, and how the results obtained using these new methods differ from those obtained via traditional close reading.

As usual in this discussion series, a short summary of the main theses will be circulated among the registered participants a few days before the talk. It is not necessary to read the full working paper.

Previous Events

24 March 2021, ‘Causal Claims in the Law’

Presentation by Professor  Christoph Engel (Director MPI-Bonn) on  ‘Causal Claims in the Law’.

23 April 2021, "The Simplicity Paradigm"

Presentation Dr Aleksi Ollikainen-Read (MPI-Frankfurt) on  “The Simplicity Paradigm”.

25 May 2021, "Epistemologies of Legal Scholarship”

Presentation by Professor Marietta Auer (Director, MPI Frankfurt): “Epistemologies of Legal Scholarship”.

Max Planck Law Projects and Max Planck Law Initiatives are grassroots  networking and cooperation formats. You are encouraged to submit a  proposal for one of these formats by completing the relevant on-line form. Further information on these and other forms of engaging the network can be found here.