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POLS 202 Introduction to American Government & Politics: Find a Current Bill

This guide will help students research the landscape of current political legislation.

Begin with

Before you start the research on a specific legislative bill, you need to choose your bill. Here are a few ideas to get you going.

Brainstorm a list of current issues that interest you.

Check out how your US Senators have voted recently. Go to the online Seattle Times and type into the Search bar: "How your U.S. lawmaker voted."

Browse the news for current legislative issues. Try a Search in ProQuest Newspapers using the terms Legislation AND Obama. Set the date range to within the last 30 days.

Survey the list of active legislation on the US Senate and House websites.

Do background reading on the topic to be sure your bill has enough controversy and complexity to generate lots of news coverage.

News Online

Access your local papers online:

Note: Be careful not to research state legislation.

News in Print at Holman Library

Current print newspapers and magazines are shelved near the writing and tutoring center.

Older copies of newspapers are kept at the circulation desk. Older magazine copies are in the stacks, organized alphabetically.

  • The Enumclaw Courier-Herald
  • The News Tribune
  • Newsweek
  • The Seattle Times
  • Time Magazine
  • U.S. News & World Report
  • The Wall Street Journal

Newspaper Editorials

Learn more about your bill by reading current news articles.

screen shots of sample ProQuest searches

Learn about current opinion by limiting your search to newspaper editorials and op-ed pieces. Scroll down below Search Options to find more search limiters.

Keywords

Strategies for finding a current bill:

Start online at the web sites for US legislative agencies. See the links to the right for leads.

Browse the news.

  • Note: For factual information on your bill, you are required to use print news only. 
  • You may read print news in print publications or in its digitized format online. The Holman Library academic database ProQuest digitizes (i.e. makes it accessible electronically) print news.

To see the range of current legislative issues, search with general Key Words, such as:

  • Obama AND (bills OR legislation).
  • Note: the parentheses around (bills OR legislation) let you search for either key word.
  • Set the Date Range to within the past 3 months or so.
  • In the example to the right, the date range finds news articles within the past 30 days.
  • Set search to Full Text Only.

To find current legislation on a topic you are interested in, add a more specific Key Word, such as:

  • Obama AND (bills or legislation) AND health care 


News Databases

You can read current newspaper articles in several of our ProQuest databases. These resources were originally published in print publications.

  • For a broad cross-section of news, use ProQuest Newspapers.
  • To focus on the alternative press, select Alt_press Watch.
  • To focus on current news through the lens of race and ethnicity, select Ethnic NewsWatch. 

Click below to enlarge the the search screen for all three databases which is pictured below.

screen shot of a sample search in ProQuest Newspapers

Use Reliable News Sources

Use a reliable print news source. While there are always exceptions to the rule, print news journalism is a more reliable source than news that is published only online. (Many print publications also have online versions, whether free or by subscription.)

Why?

Newspapers may release both print and online versions; the print version is frequently longer and more in depth.

Online news sources may make it difficult to distinguish between blogs with editorial content and reporting.

Nearly anyone can post to the web, regardless of qualification. It can also be difficult to trace information about the publisher and author on websites.

While a newspaper may have an editorial slant, reputable newspapers respect the lines between editorial, news, and advertising.

Be a critical reader:

  • Use the most reliable sources you can.
  • Look for author, date, and publication information.
  • Assess the audience of the news publication.
  • Be aware of what facts and other evidence are included in an article, and which are omitted. Assess how that impacts your perception of the issue. 
  • Look for verification in other news sources.

 

 

How to Choose a Bill

Your assignment asks you to research a current legislative bill introduced in the U.S. Congress.

Current means: Your bill must have been introduced within the last several months, or it is anticipated to be introduced this year.

U.S. Congress means: You need to find Federal legislation, rather than State.

What is a good bill for this assignment?

  • Your bill should be contested. It must have advocates and opposition.
  • Your bill should have complexity, so that while you will argue for one side of it, you will also be able to present, and refute, other points of view.
  • Your bill needs to receive media coverage. Part of your assignment is to review news coverage of the issues.

Legislative Bill Websites

Search these resources to learn about current legislation.