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POSC 103: Assignment


The assignment is designed for students to produce an original public policy research project. You will actively engage in the process of analyzing a public policy issue or social problem. Goals:

  • Investigate the history of the public policy issue or social problem.
    • Background and Historical development
    • Government interventions and policies
    • Public, private, non-profit, and other policy actors
  • Explore resources to collect evidence on the current events related to the policy issue
  • Write a paper that provides clearly defined arguments, a purpose for writing about your topic, and effective critiques of the policy.

This Guide

This guide will help you with finding resources for your assignment. In particular, it will be useful for Part 1's annotated sources section.

Part 1 Topic and Outline 3 - 5 pages (100 points)

The assignment is due by Sunday March 13. Submit the first 3–5-page with the topic of your public policy issue/area, thesis statement, and introduction.

Annotated Sources:

Like an annotated bibliography, your goal is to locate at least 3 reputable sources. Written using proper APA style citations and annotated descriptions of each source. Annotations are often one to two paragraphs long. It should include:

  • How the selected sources are related to your paper topic
  • What does the source tell the reader about the policy problem?
    • A summary of the source
    • Strengths and weaknesses of the source
    • Author conclusions

Due Dates:

Part 1 Topic and Outline (100): due by Sunday March 13

Part 2 Public Policy Analysis (100): due by Sunday, April 10

Part 3 Conclusion and Final Submission (100): due by Sunday, May 8

Supreme Court Opinions

Executive Orders

When searching the Federal Register:

  • Know the year the executive order was made

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 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 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 on your end.


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, Supreme Court

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