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POSC 103: Assignment


For this research paper, pick a public problem that the federal government has attempted to address in the past half century. Then, identify a law, a presidential directive or an agency regulation that was meant to address the problem. Once identified, your research is to explore and explain the politics that led to the policy decision made. In all cases, this should involve a discussion of the various factors or variables that explain why the decision was made.

  • Your analysis should include at least 8 sources beyond the course materials
  • Sources should include books, articles, and websites

Executive Orders

When searching the Federal Register:

  • Know the year the executive order was made


For this assignment, I would recommend the following trajectory:

  1. Identify a policy and the problem it solves
  2. Consider the social indicators for that topic
  3. Brainstorm keywords for your search, either in concept mapping or lists
  4. Use those keywords to begin to look for resources that help explain those issues, the programs, and provide context.

Where to Look?

Things may be available for you in multiple places. Don't only look in one place! But broadly, the areas below may help you narrow where to begin.

For policies:

Congress, Office of the Federal Register

For social indicators:

US Government sources like Bureau of Labor Statistics; Census Bureau; websites dedicated to federal agencies, bureaus and departments, e.g. Department of Labor, Department of Health and Human Services, Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Reserve Board, etc.

Think tanks, across the ideological spectrum - Brookings Institution; The Urban Institute; Institute for Policy Studies; American Enterprise Institute; Heritage Foundation

For context resources:

Databases like JSTOR and Academic Search Ultimate

National newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post

Broader books with chapters pertaining to your topic


An Act of Congress

When searching

  • If using the search box, make sure to change the drop down menu to All Legislation
  • Note the filters on the left side of the screen after you search. Of likely importance to you are Congress and Status of Legislation (Became Law).
  • The search algorithm isn't the best here. Even when I search for an exact bill number "S.2803" and limit to "Became Law" it's still 32 results! Be diligent in looking thorough things, and Control F is your friend.
  • If you click on the bill number you'll get lots of information that may be useful: summary, text, actions, titles, amendments, cosponsors, committees, and related bills.

Note that this resource is most reliable for legislation from 1973-present. For legislation older than 1973, coverage is more spotty in There may be information available (select more options under the search bar and click historical under Congress years), but you may need to search Google and find a reputable source (probably still governmental) that has the text of the legislation.