Research Design

The goal of the Comparative Constitutions Project is to collect data on the formal characteristics of written constitutions, both current and historical, for most independent states since 1789. Characteristics include aspects of both form and content of these documents. To achieve this goal, we divide the research into three concurrent phases:

Phase I

In the first phase, we have constructed a complete chronology of constitutional events for all independent states. In order to do so, we first had to determine criteria for what constitutes a “constitution,” decide how to handle uncodified and quasi-constitutions, and establish a unit of analysis.

Phase II

In the second phase, we endeavor to acquire English texts for each of the constitutional events identified in the chronology. Thanks to several excellent sources of constitutional documents, we have gathered English texts for the vast majority of constitutional events, and we continue to acquire and translate texts for new events.

Phase III

Finally, we developed a conceptual inventory of the elements of constitutions in which to interpret their content. We used these concepts to construct a survey instrument with which to code constitutional documents. All of this required a systematic set of coding procedures and custom-built survey software.