A legal mapping paper (sometimes called a “50 state survey”) reports the results of research to identify the key provisions of law on a particular issue, identifies patterns in the nature and distribution of laws, and defines important questions for evaluation research, legal analysis and policy development. The 50-state survey has a long history in public health law, but scientific legal mapping papers now set the standard for legal mapping work.

This paper, aimed particularly at students of law and/or health policy evaluation, describes the standard elements of a mapping paper following the conventions of writing in the health and social sciences. It assumes the reader has collected and coded legal text into data according to accepted methods.

A scientific legal mapping paper reporting these results should be concise, typically between 1,200-3,000 words of primary text. It should be organized into conventional sections, including Background, Methods, Results, Discussion, Limitations, and Conclusion, as specified by the target journal. It should be written in an objective tone, with opinion or commentary confined to the Discussion section. The paper includes illustrations from published mapping studies and a checklist of elements.