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Political Science 330 Public Policy Analysis: Congressional Material

An online course guide for researching government programs as part of policy analysis for POLISCI 330

Congress.gov

Congress.gov allows searching for legislative activity by policy areas since the 93rd Congress (1973-1974), based on analysis done by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

From any search results of legislation or member profiles, select the filter "Subject-Policy Area." Or, go to the Advanced Searches and select a policy area, click Apply, and then add other requirements, such as selecting particular Congressional sessions. See more guidance on how to Find Bills by Subject and Policy Area.

Legislative Process & Publications

The U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing objectives and mandates, funding, etc. Each piece of newly-enacted legislation may affect the laws already in place by adding new language, amending existing language, reordering language, or deleting language. The process by which legislation happens has many steps, and the publications produced at various steps can provide useful insight into the objectives and challenges for a program you are researching.

Explanations of the legislative process and the publications produced at different steps are available from the Congress (see links from https://www.senate.gov/reference/Index/Legislation.htm, but my favorite source is "How a Bill Becomes a Law" from ProQuest. Click on any step in the process for an explanation.

Details about federal legislation: How might you find enabling legislation for a program?

ProQuest Congressional

Use the ProQuest Congressional database to find Congressional publications such as hearings. Click to see search tips under the search box.

How far back the database goes with fulltext varies (see http://libguides.uww.edu/aecontent.php?pid=102774&sid=2287592). Testimony at Congressional committee hearings, for example, should be almost comprehensive since 1994, and less comprehensive 1988-1993. Transcripts of discussion at hearings is selective. If the full text is not available within the database, copy and paste the document title into the library catalog to see if it is available in Andersen Library's Federal Documents collection. Older materials (especially pre 1976) may not be cataloged, so write down the SuDoc number and ask for assistance with finding it at the Reference Desk. If Andersen Library does not have a federal document, we may be able to find it online or request it from another UW library.

For example, if you search for "school lunch" you will get results including Congressional documents, hearings, prints, reports, and more. It'll look something like this:

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Click on a document type to go to that part of the results list, e.g., click hearings and then click on titles that sound promising. After clicking on a title you'll see descriptive information (hearing title, date, SUDOC number, pages, list of the witnesses at the hearing, summary, etc.) and in most cases links to the full text:

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Click on a title and then on "Details" to see additional information including subject headings, which can be clicked to find more items on those same subjects or the words can be incorporated into your searches:

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Congressional and Other Government Documents

Search results for Congressional hearings or other government publications not owned by UW-Whitewater libraries may be available from other UW campus libraries. Below is an example:

Presidential campaign broadcasting act. Hearings before the Communications Subcommittee of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, United States Senate, Eighty-sixth Congress, second session, on S. 3171, a bill to provide for the use of television broadcasting stations by candidates for the office of President of the United States. May 16, 17, and 19, 1960. (1960). U.S. Govt. Print. Off.

Two Research@UWW Books media more (UW System) search results for a Congressional committee hearing in print format, both showing that it would need to be requested from another UW campus library.

However, before submitting a UW Request to have a print copy sent from another UW library, you can see if the title  is available online in the ProQuest Congressional database or in the Hathi Trust Digital Library. This example hearing is available online in both! Screenshots are below; click on them to link to the records for this hearing.

Screenshot of ProQuest Congressional record for the hearing, showing the link to display the pdf of the hearing

       screenshot of Hathi Trust Digital Library record for the hearing, showing the link to display the Full View of the scanned hearing