Social Policy and Program Analysis: FAQ's about Federal Policy Research

Research Guide for Social Policy and Program Analysis

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Federal Policy Research

How do I go about identifying a piece of legislation on a given topic?

 There is no single way to identify legislation related to a particular topic. You may wish to consult the Encyclopedia of Social Work since the chapters concerning various topics frequently mention recent legislation in that area.  The Congressional Research Service (CRS) publishs background reports on major legislation.  Search for  relevant CRS reports in the Homeland Security Digital Library.  The Contemporary World Issues series also publishes topic-specific handbooks on various social issues, which include reviews of recent legislation on their given topic. Another good option is to review the web sites of advocacy groups for a particular issue.  For example, the Children’s Defense Fund site includes sections on recent legislation.  Keep in mind the fact that advocacy groups will likely interpret legislation in a manner that supports their position.  This is, of course, what advocacy groups are supposed to do, but you need to be aware of this when interpreting information from these sites.  Finally, remember that many of your social work professors are specialists in a particular area such as aging, criminal justice, or mental health.  Consider talking with them about legislation on a particular topic.

How do I find the text of a bill or law concerning my policy issue?

 Search ProQuest Congressional  or Congress.gov.  Both sources allow you to search for the full text of legislation going back to the 100th or 101st (1988 or 1989-90) Congress.  You may also search the text of public laws – those bills that have already been passed into law.

 Printed copies of legislation and legislative information may be found in Anschutz Library, which contains KU’s Government Information collection.  KU is a federal depository for government publications and maintains extensive collections of these publications.

 How do I determine the reaction to a policy, learn whom it has affected, and other background issues?

  1. Search a news database such as ProQuest Academic, Expanded Academic ASAP, or Ethnic Newswatch to see if articles or editorials have been written about your policy or piece of legislation - note the names of any agencies or individuals who are quoted.
  2. Review resources for national policy research such as CQ ResearcherPolicyFile, Homeland Security Digital Library to see what has been written concerning your topic. 
  3. Articles published in academic journals may provide analysis of social policy and the “cause/effect” cycle of issues behind the policy.  Databases that may prove helpful include Social Work Abstracts, ERIC (education), PsycInfo (psychology and related issues), Criminal Justice Abstracts, Health and Wellness Resource Center (healthcare), and PubMed (medical/health).  Ask a reference librarian for additional suggestions.

 

 How do I learn about current action related to my bill?

  1. The Bills section of the PrQuest Congressional  database includes a tracking feature.  You may also search Bill Summary & Status information via the Congress.gov web site.
  2. Regular searching of the news resources mentioned is another good way of learning about the status of pending legislation.

 

 How do I find the NASW’s perspective on a particular issue?

 Consult Social Work Speaks: NASW Policy Statements.  The most recent edition is shelved in Watson Reference. HV 85 .N33a  

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