SW 520 Social Welfare Policy: Developing Your Topic
Preliminary Worksheet for Library Research
Deciding on which policy to analyze for your paper can be challenging. Consider taking the following steps in advance to avoid hurdles in completing your assignment.
1. Do some preliminary reading on the policy before committing to it.
- Encyclopedia of Social Problems
- USA.gov (for state .gov web content, just add state name to your search)
- Congressional Research Service Reports (federal reports)
- Think Tank Search
Preliminary reading before you decide fully on your policy helps you figure out which aspect of the policy are most interesting to you.
2. Consider the amount of information available on your policy in relationship to needs of the assignment.
- Policies at the federal level can an overwhelming amount of components. Based on your reading, chose a specific part of the policy to analyze, and let that guide your search for information. For example, rather than trying to analyze the Violence Against Women Act, you could analyze the part of the VAWA that allows for battered immigrants to the U.S. to self-petition for deferred action.
- Is it a policy at an individual agency or in a small town? Policies implemented at agencies or other small governmental and institutional bodies are less likely to have information readily available. If you decide on a policy from a small entity, build context by examining how that policy connects to broader or similar policy concerns and efforts.
- Is it a policy that has not yet be enacted? Finding information describing the impact of a policy not yet in place is not possible, so you'll need to look for information on similar policies that have been enacted elsewhere (e.g. other states).
Wikipedia can be a very useful resource, as long as you keep some things in mind:
- The most useful part of a wikipedia article are the references at the bottom of the page;
- Wikipedia is good at providing a basic introduction to a topic, and it also often provides you with important details such as the bill numbers of related legislation;
- Wikipedia pages about controversial issues (e.g. gun control, abortion) are often revised, sometimes with a lot of inherent bias. Keep your critical reading hat on! Often on these articles you will see a message from Wikipedia that the article's neutrality is disputed.
Congressional Research Service
Want a good overview of current and past federal policies? See if there's a Congressional Research Service report! CRS is the public policy research arm of Congress. This legislative branch agency works exclusively for Members of Congress, their committees and their staffs.
Encyclopedia of Social Problems
Search across Federal and State Websites
Search for entries across encyclopedias in the Social Sciences. Subject coverage includes counseling, criminology, education, geography, health and social care, media and communication, politics science, psychology, and sociology.
Encyclopedias provide summaries of topics, key issues, and point you to related research.