Stage 2 - Workflow

The second stage of the research process is where the literature review meets the research design. Judicial impact studies require the researcher to identify a population of judicial decisions that interpret the policy precedent. This is done using Shepard’s Citations®, a tool offered through the Lexis database. The case citation for Harris is entered into Shepard’s and it produces a list of decisions that have cited the decision, followed the precedent, or criticized it in some way. This list is organized by individual lower courts, and each case can then be downloaded. I limit the analysis to cases in which some analysis is made, as a mere citation in a subsequent decision might have no actual relevance to dog sniffs.

Once downloaded into Microsoft Word (or RTF) files, the cases are ready to be imported into a MAXQDA project, and a workspace is established. When doing this, I usually create a parallel spreadsheet that lists the name of the case, the court involved, the type of court (appellate vs. trial, for example), and other basic descriptors, which are then imported into MAXQDA as document variables.

Each document is numbered consecutively and imported into MAXQDA.

Once the cases are in MAXQDA, an initial set of codes and variables are created.

The code-list is drawn from the literature review and can be thought of as rather tentative. I’ll admit there are times when I just start with no code-book and read through a few documents, and then code on the fly (by right-clicking and selecting new code). Ideally, however, an initial code-book can help the coding process, and save time. I also try to organize the codes into categories, such as legal theories, legal concepts/standards, judicial criticisms, and factual information about the case (type of dog sniff, location of the stop, descriptions of the suspect and vehicle, and miscellaneous things). I always include a code for “quotable” (referring to language I am certain I will want to quote in the analysis). It is a catch-all code, but one that can be very valuable, especially when sorting through 40 or 50 documents.