PS 101: Introduction to Political Science

This collection of resources is designed to facilitate research on U.S. government policy making and policy implementation.

Choosing a Statute

The length of a statute or bill may be a poor indicator of how much research it will require.  Look, instead, at the extent of its legislative history and the number of documents that are directly related to it.  Be mindful that almost all legislative histories in ProQuest Congressional refer to bills, hearings, and committee reports associated with legislative efforts in previous congresses.  In most instances, you can ignore these.

Federal Legislative Resources

Web Sites/Databases:

Provides bill histories, histories of public laws, full-text congressional publications, and information on members of Congress.

  • CIS Index

Print copies are located under Q.348.7325 In2 in the Main Stacks.  This resource is the print counterpart to ProQuest Congressional.

Facilitates access to congressional documents, including bills, committee reports, and the Congressional Record.

Contains the official, full-text documents of executive agencies, the courts, and Congress, including hearings (with appendices:  records of hearings in LexisNexis Congressional have no appendices).

These sites include links to the web sites of committees and individual senators and representatives.

Analytical Aids:

Print copies are located under 328.7305Coqa1 1998-  in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library as well as the Main Stacks.  This resource summarizes and interprets legislative activity in concise, authoritative articles.

  • CQ Almanac Plus

Print copies are located under 328.7305 Coq1 2001- in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library.  This resource, a synthesis of CQ Weekly, provides a comprehensive overview of Congressional activity during a given year.

Covers the work of Congress in five-year increments (except in volume 1, which deals with the period 1945-1964). The most recent volume covers 2001-2004.

Provides analysis of public policy issues.

  • Congressional Quarterly Almanac

Print copies are located under 328.7305 Coq  1945-2000 in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library as well as the Main Stacks.  This resource is the predecessor to the CQ Almanac Plus.

  • Congress and the Nation: A Review of Government and Politics  

Print copies are located under 320.973 C76 in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library.  This resource is a summary of the Congressional Quarterly Almanac and covers five-year periods dating from 1945 to 2004.

  • Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report

Print copies are located under 328.7305 Coqa in the Main Stacks.  This is the predecessor of the CQ Weekly and runs from 1956 to 1998.

Focuses on current public policy issues. You can also access the Almanac of American Politics through this site.

Handbooks and Guides:

For detailed information, click on the part of the graphic that you need.

An outline of the U.S. government legislative process.

Print copies are located under 328.73003 C76 2003 in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library as well the Oak Street facility by request.  This resource explains congressional processes in accessible prose.

  • How Congress Works, 3rd ed.  

A print copy is located under 328.73 H83 1998 in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library.  This is another excellent introduction to congressional procedures and practices.

Federal Regulatory Resources

Note:  When searching for regulations, first identify their source.

Federal Register:

The Federal Register contains proposed rules and final rules; the latter are incorporated in the Code of Federal Regulations. Each issue is arranged roughly by executive body. A citation consists of the volume number, "FR," page number, and year, as in 46 FR 3566 (1981).

Code of Federal Regulations:

The CFR contains regulations currently in force that have been printed as final rules in the Federal Register. It is published annually, and rules printed in the Federal Register do not appear immediately in either the online or print versions of the CFR. CFR references consist of a title number, "CFR," section number, and year, as in 40 CFR 211.10 (1978).

Private Parties in the Policy Process

Web Sites:

Provides campaign finance data. Also contains the Lobbying Database.

Identifies and categorizes interest groups according to ideology. Also links groups to particular issues.

Subject guide at the University of Michigan, which links to several Think Tank directories.  Note that this lists are not comprehensive.

Program Evaluation

Web Sites/Handbooks and Guides:

The GAO carries out audits and evaluations of government programs and activities.  While some GAO reviews are required by law, the majority are undertaken at the request of a Congressional committee.  The site includes a search by broad subject area (see Reports and Testimony).

Considered a standard reference book on social policy, the Green Book consists of detailed program descriptions and statistical appendices.  The current edition is located at DOC.Y4.W36:10-4/ in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library.  Previous editions are located in the Main Stacks.

The Catalog is a compendium of information on federal programs, projects, services, and activities which provide assistance or benefits to individuals.  

Calculates the cost of every bill.

  • Congressional Research Services Index (CD-ROM) 

This index includes bibliographic records for CRS studies made available as part of the Major Studies & Issue Briefs of the Congressional Research Service microfiche set, which is located in a cabinet labeled UPA in the Government Documents section of the Reading Room in the Main Library.  In response to requests from Congress, the CRS issues publications that include background studies, pro and con arguments, in-depth policy and legislative analysis, and legislative histories on every conceivable topic of interest to Congress.

Government Search Engines

Web Sites:

This is the U.S. Government's portal for local, state, and U.S. government information.

News Sources

Web Sites:

Covers Congress and the influence of congressional leaders, the administration, and lobbyists. 

This semi-weekly newspaper covers Congress.

Provides information on thousands of candidates and officials, including their backgrounds, positions on issues, voting records, performance evaluations, and the financing of their campaigns.

The A Section contains national political coverage, including investigative reporting and public policy analysis.

Other Reference Sources

Web Sites/Databases:

Excellent, concise coverage of current elected US officials. Covers the presidency, senators, representatives, and governors. Cites election results, individuals' records, and committee memberships. Organized by state, indexed by topic and personal name.  Print editions through 2008 are available under 328.73 AL62 in Main Stacks and the most recent volume is in the Social Science, Health, and Education Library's Reference Collection in the Main Library.

CQ Voting and Elections Collection integrates a wealth of data, authoritative analyses, concise explanations, and historical material to provide a powerful research and reference tool on the American voter, major and minor political parties, etc.  An associated database on election results is also part of this resource.

Provides complete information on agencies in all three branches of the U.S. government as well as semi-official agencies and international organizations in which the U.S. participates.

Handbooks and Guides:

  • American Congressional Dictionary . Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 2001.

Source of definitions and brief explanations of many of the terms and expression in current use in the Congress. Focuses on the legislative process with many cross-references.  Located at 328.73003 K869c 2001 in the Reference Collection of the Social Science, Health, and Education Library and JK9 .K73 2001 in the Main Stacks.

Provides an overview of the history and operation of Congress by broad subject area, as well as non-technical explanations of congressional procedures.  Print copy located at 328.73003 C76 2003 in Government Documents Section of the Reading Room of the Main Library.

  • Congress of the United States: Powers, Structure, and Procedures . Huntington, NY: Nova Science Publishers, 2001.

Essays on legislative powers, conference committee and related procedures, committees of the Senate and House, amending process of the Senate and House, filibusters and more, include documentary text and analysis with lots of references.  Located at 328.73 C765 in the Reference Collection of the Social Science, Health, and Education Library.

  • Congressional Districts in the 2000s: A Portrait of America , Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2003.

This provides a state-by-state, district-by-district listing of information on population, history, industry, and more, as well as appendices for census tables, measuring congressional districts, high and low Congressional District rankings, redistricting court cases, and the District of Columbia.  Located at Q.328.7307345 C7621 in the Main Stacks and Reference Collection of the Social Science, Health, and Education Library.

  • Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process , Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2007.

Explains matters such as the congressional budget process, the scheduling of legislative activities, legislative oversight, House-Senate differences, and House and Senate floor procedures.  Located at 328.73 Ol2c2007 in the Government Documents area of the Reading Room in the Main Library.

This 2-volume set includes sections on the origins and development of Congress, congressional powers, congressional procedures, pressures on Congress, the housing and support of House and Senate members, pay and perquisites, Congress and the electorate, and qualifications and conduct.  Print copy located at Q.328.73 C7611g 2000 in Undergraduate Library as well as the Government Documents area of the Reading Room in the Main Library.

Contains election data for all major political offices since 1824. Data covers presidential, Senate, House, and gubernatorial elections. Includes a detailed table of contents, a candidate index, and a general index for easy access. Print copy located at Q. 329.023 C7612005  in the Main Stacks in the Main Library.

  • Directory of Congressional Voting Scores and Interest Group Ratings . Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 2000 (3rd ed), 2 volumes.

Listing of voting scores and group ratings by individual for members from the 80th to the 105th Congress. Includes information on date of birth, religion, education, occupation, military service, political background and election record with voting scores on four aspects and ratings from ten organizations. Located at Q328.730775 Sh23d 2000 in the Reference Collection of the Social Science, Health, and Education Library.

Basic information on the many aspects of U.S. elections in one volume. No bibliography, but a large amount of factual and statistical information. Print copy located at 324.6097303 M784e in the Oak Street Facility for request only.

  • Encyclopedia of the American Legislative System: Studies of the Principal Structures, Processes, and Policies of Congress and the State Legislatures Since the Colonial Era.  New York: C. Scribner's Sons,. 1994.

This 3-volume encyclopedia is divided into six topical areas: the historical context of the legislative system; recruitment and elections; structures and processes; behavior; legislatures and public policy; and legislatures within the political system. Each section is composed of essays written by noted authors. Located at Q.328.73003 En19 in the Reference Collection of the Social Science, Health, and Education Library.

  • Encyclopedia of the United States Congress, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995

Medium to long essays concerning the work of the Congress with very rich bibliographies for further research.  Located at Q.328.73003 En192 in the Reference Collection of the Social Science, Health, and Education Library.

  • Facts about the Congress. New York : Wilson, 1996 -

Facts about the U.S. Congresses from the 1st to the 104th includes information about important legislation, committee members, and much more. Includes bibliographical references and an extensive index.  Located at 328.7309 C462F in the Reference Collection of the Main Library's Reading Room and the Reference Collection of the Social Science, Health, and Education Library.

Citing Government Sources

Web Sites:

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Mary Mallory, Coordinator, Government Information Services, Access and Collections, University Library

Karen Hogenboom, Numeric and Spatial Data Librarian, Scholarly Commons