Module 2: Defining the Scope of the Project and Conducting Background Research

This module teaches the second stage of the policy surveillance process: defining the scope of the project and conducting background research. 

Background research is used to define and refine the scope of the legal mapping project at the beginning of the project and throughout its duration. Background research facilitates the question development step of the process by creating a preliminary list of legal variables that will be studied in the project. 

Defining the scope of your project 

This module will first teach you how to define the scope of your project by: 

  • Clearly identifying the topic and parameters for what you will study, 
  • Refining your topic to include or exclude sub-topics 

Conducting background research 

Next, this module provides a step-by-step guide to conducting background research by teaching you how to: 

  • Identify secondary sources, 
  • Draft a background memorandum to identify key elements of the law and explore the legal landscape on your project’s topic, 
  • Draft a five-state memorandum to identify variation in the law across a sample of five states (or other jurisdictions depending on the project’s scope),
  • Develop a search strategy,
  • Compile a sample of laws relevant to your project,
  • Generate a list of preliminary variables that should be explored to meet the goals of your project. 

Additional resources 

Below, you will find links to document templates used when performing policy surveillance, such as an example of a background memorandum, and also other important related resources to help you get started. Please explore the other modules if you are interested in learning more about policy surveillance. 

The Learning Library was developed using funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with modules supported in part by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ChangeLab Solutions under Cooperative Agreement Number NU38OY000141. The views expressed in written materials or publications and by the speakers and moderators do not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Department of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial practices, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.