Words count: Discourse and the quantitative analysis of international norms

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Scholarship on human rights norms is fraught with inconsistencies between different interpretations of norm diffusion and effect. This problem can be remedied in part through a closer examination of the structure of norms themselves and how that structure informs the process of data collection, particularly for quantitative analysis. Contemporary international norms have a tripartite structure, and research on contemporary norms must gather data on all three components of this structure in order to accurately identify the object of study. The addition of value statements to existing datasets offers a method of data validation to ensure that the behaviors identified are actually expressions of the norm being studied. The researcher can correct two distinct forms of overcounting: behaviors that correspond to other norms and behaviors that are not identified as normative at all. As a demonstration, I use the set of norms known collectively as transitional justice.




Winston, C. (2020). Words count: Discourse and the quantitative analysis of international norms. Journal of Human Rights, 19(1), 138–151. https://doi.org/10.1080/14754835.2019.1671180

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