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Frequently Asked Questions

What is LawAtlas?

LawAtlas is an online platform that is the central, authoritative place for the systematic collection, measurement and display of laws. It is a tool primarily designed for policy-makers, advocates and researchers to help them understand what the laws are on a given topic, know how the laws differ across jurisdictions, and measure their impact.

This site was developed by the Public Health Law Research program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It cannot and does not provide legal advice. Should you have a specific question about the law in your state, please contact a qualified lawyer. 

How do I explore the law?

There are two ways to navigate through this site and explore the law: The first way is by characteristics using an interactive map, chart or reports on one of the topic pages. The second way is by downloading the raw data itself as an Excel spreadsheet. The raw data is what powers the maps, charts and reports.

If you choose to navigate using the maps, charts and reports, here’s how to proceed:

1.     Choose a topic from the list.

2.     Once you have chosen a topic to explore, you will be able to begin choosing characteristics about the law that meet your interest. Click the blue “Start Here” button to open a new dialog box with the characteristics. Some are more complex and have multiple levels of criteria that may help you “drill down” to more detail.

3.     As you choose the characteristics, you will see the number of states or jurisdictions that meet that criteria listed at the bottom of the box.

4.     Once you’ve chosen all the characteristics you want, click “Show Map” to view the results. States that have laws that meet your chosen criteria will appear in yellow. If you scroll down, they will also appear in a table below the interactive map.

How do I find information about my state only? 

If you are interested in the laws of one particular state, simply click on that state on the map.

I’ve chosen my criteria on the map page, what does the table beneath it mean?

Once you have chosen the characteristics you’re interested in reviewing, a table will appear below the colored map. That table lists out all of the criteria you chose and how each state reflects those characteristics in its law.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate:

·     To read the full law that discusses the topic, you can click the red “View Law” button next to the state name.

·     To read only the section of the law that meets the criteria you chose, click the blue section symbol “§” below that criteria.

·     Red alerts (which look like this XXX) signal information that clarifies how the law meets the criteria you chose. Hovering over or clicking on the red alert will display more information.

I’m a researcher and I want to use some of the data from this site to conduct a study. Can I do that? 

In short, yes. We provide downloads of the data, protocol and codebooks used to create the data for just that reason. We only ask that in using our data, please use this citation:

LawAtlas Policy Surveillance Dataset, Data on insert title of dataset; created by NPO Staff, available at: http://lawatlas.org/data [date accessed].

How was the data created?

The majority of the datasets displayed on this site were created using the LawAtlas Workbench, which is a content management system for coding legal texts, creating research datasets, and publishing legal data as maps and reports. Workbench supports redundant coding, extremely large and complex projects, and the flexible export of data for analysis.

Each topic page includes the research protocol and codebook used to compile the data, as well the creator (curator) of the data. To learn more about the methods associated with conducting public health law research, we encourage you to visit http://publichealthlawresearch.org/resources/methods.

How can I learn more about how I could use LawAtlas to create a dataset?

For more information about Workbench and using it to create a legal dataset, please contact us at phlr@temple.edu.