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.
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.
- Defining the Scope and Background Research (slides)
- Effective Dates
- How to Build a Master Sheet
- An Introduction to the Structure and Sources of American Law
- Sample 5-State Policy Memo – Child Restraint Laws
- Sample 5-State Policy Memo – Outpatient Commitment
- Sample Background Memo – Outpatient Commitment
- Research Protocol Template
- Daily Research Sheet Template
- 5-State Policy Memo Template