Measuring Law for Evaluation Research

Evaluation that utilizes social science and law can yield important findings on public policies. According to the authors, however, this is infrequently achieved because interdisciplinary research contains significant methodological challenges.

This article is a practical how-to guide in applying the scientific method to measure the law for quantitative research. Evaluating law presents specific challenges: the authors note that evaluators must identify relevant components of an area of law, categorize legal elements of policy, and create accurate representations of the law in both counts and numeric indicators.

This article offers a process for measuring law:

  • Choose measurement objectives
  • Establish a legal framework
  • Devise measures from models and preliminary legal research
  • Construct variables
  • Create codebooks and protocols
  • Smooth interactions across sites

The authors argue that evaluation can be advanced by using accurate and comprehensive legal research to demonstrate the effects of policies. The paper is based on an extended Public Health Law Research-sponsored methodology monograph, "Measuring Law for Public Health Research." Public Health Law Research, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program at Temple University, is a national initiative to promote effective regulatory, legal and policy solutions to improve public health.