Scientific legal mapping (sometimes called a “50 state survey”) analyzes the state of the law concerning a particular legal topic. A mapping study may examine the law at a particular point in time or its change over a period of time. Policy surveillance, one type of legal mapping, tracks laws and policy over time in multiple jurisdictions and in turn can be used to evaluate those laws and policies’ effects. Policy surveillance also allows stakeholders to see what is happening across multiple jurisdictions, whether to track a public health law campaign’s progress or to show whether a jurisdiction is an outlier.
How does one go about it?
A scientific legal mapping paper has the same features as empirical research: systematic data collection and analysis using a replicable process. The researcher collects and codes laws using key words and phrases. Some resources are below.
The Policy Surveillance Program
The Temple Law Center for Public Health Law Research’s Policy Surveillance Program website contains datasets on various public health law topics such as housing, environmental health, and chronic disease. Use the website to find data or to get a sense of what legal mapping can do.
MonQcle is a software application that allows researchers to “identify, code, and analyze legal policies,” create graphics, and collaborate. It is intended to be easier to update and manipulate data than traditional spreadsheets.
Writing a legal mapping paper
Professor Scott Burris wrote How to Write a Legal Mapping Paper, available on SSRN here.
Examples of legal mapping papers
Jennifer K. Ibrahim et al., State Laws Restricting Driver Use of Mobile Communications Devices: Distracted-Driving Provisions, 1992-2010, 40 Am. J. Preventive Med. 659 (2011).
Susan A. Chapman et al., Capturing Heterogeneity in Medical Marijuana Policies: A Taxonomy of Regulatory Regimes Across the United States, 51 Substance Use & Misuse 1174 (2016).
Megan D. Douglas et al., Analyzing State Autism Private Insurance Mandates for Allied Health Services: A Pilot Study, 37 OTJR: Occupation, Participation, and Health 218 (2017).
Aila Hoss et al., State Statutes and Regulations Related to Human Papillomavirus Vaccination, 15 Hum. Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 1519 (2019).