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POL 110: US Government and Politics: Short Paper 1 & Research Paper


Short Paper 1: Your assignment for Short Paper #1 is to analyze the politics surrounding one public policy issue that has been debated in one or more federal government institutions since President Biden took office (January 20, 2021 to the present day).

Research Paper: Each student will write a 6-7 research page paper on a topic of the student’s choice. The only limitation is that the paper must cover some facet of U.S. government and politics as its main focus. 

The resources on this page will help connect you with information resources, as well as provide tips on best ways to search, for both assignments. Please reach out to Julie, your course librarian, or to any of our librarians, with any questions. We can help you track down sources, troubleshoot any issues, and help you think through topic development and research strategies.

Finding Books

A lot of current issues still get covered in books, so don't overlook these important resources. There are entire shelves devoted to topics like the death penalty and reproductive rights, for example. Books are an excellent source because they often provide broad overviews of your topic. In contrast, scholarly journal articles sometimes present very granular takes on an issue and don't provide the overview you need.

To find books in our library, search the Library Catalog - you can also search directly via  the search box on the library's homepage. For help finding books on the shelf, consult this guide or ask for help at the library's front desk. This is one of the most common questions we get, so don't feel like you are the only one who doesn't know how to find books in the library.

Here's a quick summary of how to find books: When you find books in the catalog that look useful, write down the Collection & the Call Number

General Collection, call numbers A - PQ  are on the Third Floor 

General Collection, call numbers PR - Z are on the Second (Main) Floor

Oversize are on the Third Floor, Beck Hall side

Reference are on the Second (Main) Floor, Beck Hall side

Once you are in the right area, signs on the sides of the shelves will direct you further. The system is a little tricky to figure out at first, so don't hesitate to ask for directions at the Information Desk (main floor of the library).

Browse the shelves when you find a useful book. Books are shelved according to topic, so chances are you'll find other relevant books nearby.

You can check books out at the Information Desk. This page has information about loan periods, renewals, etc.  

Using Books Effectively

Sometimes people shy away from books because they are longer to read than a journal article. While this might be technically true, there are some tricks you can use to understand a book's structure and argument, so you DON'T have to read the whole thing. 

  • Read the table of contents 
  • Read the book's introduction/first chapter AND conclusion/last chapter - these present and highlight the main arguments
  • The end of chapter one will often provide a roadmap for the rest of the book
  • Skim chapter headings
  • Browse the index 

Once you have a good idea of the book's structure and argument through skimming, you can narrow in on the portions of the text most useful for your research.

Finding Scholarly Articles

These article databases will help you find scholarship written about your topic. (In this case, we mean academic articles written by experts in the field.) Be sure to read the database description before searching and try your searches in a couple of databases to make sure you're finding a variety of sources. Consult the search tips tab above for more information on developing good search terms.

Newspaper Articles

Newspapers are a fantastic source for learning about policy issues. They will provide updates on the issue and will often mention specific individuals or organizations involved in the issue. They can also provide information on any current legislation that might be happening. The databases below contain full text articles from major and regional newspapers in the United States, as well as some from around the globe. Content is current, so you'll likely find today's paper already in the database.

Additional Resources

The two resources below might also be helpful. CQ Researcher Online allows you to search by topic and find detailed reports. The Gun Regulation and Legislation in America database is a specialized database focused on gun regulations and will be very helpful if your topic connects to this area.

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