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Practical information

To establish causality, it is necessary to conduct so-called experimental research. In an experimental study, there is an experimental group that receives an ‘intervention’ (education, punishment, an alternative outcome, a pill) and a control group that is otherwise similar but did not receive that intervention. The differences between the experimental and control group reflect the effect of the intervention.

In many practical situations in ELS, it is not possible to conduct experimental research: every court case is different, we cannot ‘randomise’ judges or injured people to interventions, and more often than not, practical objections make this kind of research unfeasible.

Vignettes are a useful method to still investigate causal effects. A vignette is a case description: for example, a violent incident. We administer this, and we then ask respondents, for example, how bad they think the incident was, or how much punishment the perpetrator should receive. Now, by randomly changing certain aspects of the case study, we can mimic experimental research. For example, half of respondents (by chance) get a case with a male offender and the other half with a female offender. Or one half gets a case where the offender shows remorse and the other half gets a case where the offender shows no remorse. If then there are differences between the male or female offender, or the offender with or without remorse, we attribute these to that factor.

How can you use vignettes, and what should you pay attention to when creating vignettes, and administering them among respondents? In this session, we will address practical issues like these, and also briefly discuss the theory behind vignettes. We will then discuss some creative ELS examples.

For: Maximum of 20 PhD Students and Staff (PhD students have priority)

Teachers: Prof. Catrien Bijleveld and Dr. Victor van der Geest

Where: Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1077 Amsterdam, Initium building, room IN 2a 45-47

Registration: Send an email to and include your affiliation in this email.