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POSC 103: Assignment

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The assignment is for you to write a 10-15 page research paper that analyzes a policy that the federal government has pursued or is presently pursuing today.  The paper should provide an analysis of the problem or problems that led to the policy in the first place; a description of what the policy is and how it has been implemented; and finally, an evaluation of the policy’s impact on the problem.  More specifically, the paper should follow the outline below and cover the issues identified.

Also, a full bibliography should be included.  Web based sources are certainly valid but books, journal articles and newspaper citations must be the basis of your research.

Paper is due on Wednesday, April 22nd by 5:00 p.m.


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 or the 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


Concept Mapping

Concept mapping is one way to get your thoughts in order to begin the process. Who are the players involved? What issues do you need to be aware of?

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 the 32 result! Be diligent in looking thorough things and Control F is your friend.
  • If you click on the bill number you get lots of information that may be useful: summary, text, actions, titles, amendments, cosponsors, committees, and related bills.

Note that this resource only covers 1973-present. For legislation older than 1973 you will need to search Google and find a reputable source (probably still governmental) that has the text of the legislation. You may not have all the other pieces of information present in as readily available. It will require more searching.

Executive Orders

When searching the Federal Register:

  • Know the year the executive order was made