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Government Information (US)

About Legislation


Legislation by Congress is of interest not only to political science majors and law students.  Laws made by Congress, approved by the President and implemented by executive agencies of the government affect all of us in our daily lives. Issues of the day often become "hot" because of political disagreement.  Researching legislationcan be a great way to get a handle on issues important to you.

Researching Legislation

Legislative research is a good way to present arguments in a paper for and against a proposition. Building a persuasive argument, though, takes a bit of research. To begin you must first gather background information.

Research Strategy

First, find sources of background information on both sides of an issue or controversy. An excellent place to start is CQ Researcher.

  • Go to the CQ Researcher database to get an overview of an argument.
  • Use newspapers and newsmagazines to find reporting and editorials about a topic.
  • Use to read the text of a bill and find Congressional Record references and other reports related to the bill.

As you read look for information that will help you find more information about the legislation:

  • Names of people or organizations that support or oppose the legislation.
  • References to specific bills, congressional hearings, committees or reports.
  • References to lawsuits.

Congressional hearings can be an invaluable source of pro/con arguments because stakeholders representing pro/con opinions on proposed legislation are invited to testify before congressional committees.  These witnesses usually present their arguments in a clear, convincing way because they are trying to persuade Congress to vote their way.  Use the ProQuest Congressional database or the Gov Info website to find a congressional hearing about your topic. You can use the ProQuest Congressional database to search hearings by witness name and/or affiliation.

One other important resource for background information is the Congressional Research Service (CRS).  The CRS provides research reports to members of Congress. They are generally considered unbiased and authoritative.

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