Stage 1 - Planning

MAXQDA has transformed how I conduct research. I am a criminal justice and constitutional law scholar, who studies the impact and implementation of judicial policies. I seek to understand how lower courts interpret judicial policies established by the U.S. Supreme Court. This is done through a review of dozens and often hundreds of decisions from lower courts that seek to interpret, modify, and apply the higher court’s policy and precedent. My work in this area is currently focused on searches by police of vehicles using narcotics trained dogs. I'll use examples from that research in this site.


The initial stage is really no different from that of any other research project. You develop an analytical plan and conceptual framework for the research, by identifying initial research questions and conducting a literature review. For a judicial impact study on the reliability of narcotics dog sniffs, it means starting first with the legal precedents that frame the law, in this instance Florida v. Harris (2013), and Illinois v. Caballes (2005), which established the original precedents for dog sniffs.

The Harris decision suggests that defendants have the right to challenge the reliability of a narcotics dog and provides some guidance for judges to follow. The initial research question raised by Harrisis “how the ability of defendants to challenge a narcotics dog’s reliability has impacted police use of dog sniffs?”

The literature review provides an initial set of issues to look at in exploring dog sniff reliability, such as false-alerts, where a dog alerts on contraband, but none is found, unintentional cueing of the animal by a handler, in which the dog wants to please its master, and residual contraband that a dog might alert on.