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POL5010: Public Policy in the Age of Globalization: Legislative History Research

Federal Legislative History Research Guides

How to Research Federal Legislative History

Your course topic will be a policy initiative represented by a major piece of Federal legislation. In the first paper assignment, "Getting to Know Your Policy Initiative," you will gather information about the purpose, significance, and controversies surrounding the initiative, along with the essential factual information about your policy from its introduction as a resolution in Congress through to its final passage as a U.S. public law. The documents associated with this chronology make up the legislative history of your policy and will usually include many of the following:

  • Bill introduced in one or both Houses of Congress, assigned a Bill Number and referred to one or more appropriate Committees; there may also be an introductory statement when a Bill is introduced
  • Committee/Subcommittee hearings transcripts and markup of the Bill; Committee/Subcommittee report(s) on the Bill
  • Adopted and defeated amendments
  • Floor debates and actions
  • Enrolled version of the Bill (Act) passed by both Houses of Congress and sent to the President
  • Presidential signing statement

Along with these official documents, you can also gather important information about the policy through contemporary news reports and other sources, but having a basic chronology of the legislation first can be extremely helpful in this process, and it will enable you to conduct focused searches in large databases.

The links to the right offer detailed information on conducting legislative history research, while the links below represent some of the most important sources of official documents.

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