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University of Illinois Law Review


Professor Harcourt develops and advocates a method to more rigorously measure and evaluate how qualitative "social meaning" variables relate to legal practices and public policies. The method integrates in-depth qualitative interviews with an experimental free associational component, map analysis of the interviews, and a methodology, correspondence analysis, that remains little known in the United States despite its acceptance in other parts of the world. Correspondence analysis, according to Professor Harcourt, is a tool that allows researchers to visually represent the relationship between structures of social meaning and the contexts and practices within which they are embedded. This method opens up structures of meaning in a more accessible and rigorous way than was previously possible, and can significantly aid in the analysis of legal and public policy. Professor Harcourt uses his own research, focusing on the social meanings of guns to youth, as an example of how correspondence analysis works. Using this method, Professor Harcourt extracts and graphically represents meanings from interviews of thirty incarcerated male youths and analyzes the policy implications of his findings.

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Symposium: Empirical and Experimental Methods in Law

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