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Researching Public Policy

Sources and strategies for finding and evaluating public policy and policy research

Reports - Analysis from Many Sources

A key source type for policy analysis is reports written by involved parties. Your strategy might be to think of as many players as possible who might write reports that would touch on your policy issue, for example:

  • Embassies
  • Local Government Agencies
  • U.S. Government Agencies
  • Special agencies or organizations tasked with carrying out policy
  • Issue organizations and intergovernmental organizations that have a stake in tracking the issue
  • Other actors whose approaches are alternatives or competitors to the policy of interest
  • Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports on issues of interest to U.S. legislators (see government document section of this guide)

Following are some strategies for finding annual reports.

  1. Go directly to the web sites of the individuals and organizations listed above and browse the navigation
    1. It is common to find documents through directed digging that you *will not find* through search alone. (For example, the Tanzania Commission for AIDS web site has an annual report. If you search the site for it, it doesn't come up. If you use Google to search the site, it doesn't come up. Only browsing the site to annual reports brings it up).
    2. Data that are highly contextual are likely to be found here. Look for terms like: data, statistics, dashboard.
  2. Use Google to search only those sites:
    1. ex: pepfar
  3. Use Google to find reports from any source - use broad terms
    1. [your issue] plus annual report -- ex: tanzania hiv annual report
    2. [your issue] plus filetype:pdf -- ex: tanzania pepfar filetype:pdf

U.S. Government Documents

Below is just a sampling of some of the types of government documents you can find using specialized search tools.

Use the filters in ProQuest Congressional to find

  • CRS Reports - original research done on behalf of Congress
  • Published Hearings - a great place to find expert tesimony
  • Committee Prints
  • Congressional Record - transcription of floor discussion and debate
  • Legislative Histories - summaries of the histories of selected legislation

If your topic leads you into the Federal Register for Executive Orders or details of rules and fund allocation, this database does a better job of linking related documents than the free government web sites. 

Go directly to a publication like the Budget of the United States, Public Laws, Senate Committe on Foreign Relations or just search. The filters let you narrow in helpful ways like, for example, by Government Author, Agency, Organization, or named person. 

A great way to link related bills, hearings, testimonies, and public laws. 

Non-partisan Government Reports

The U.S. government researches public policy programs and issues.  The Congressional Research Service provides research and analysis to Congress and the Government Accountability Office analyzes the effectiveness of government programs. 

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports are not automatically made public.  However, the library has hundreds of CRS reports on file, and various libraries and organizations are making a concerted effort to collect and digitize as many CRS reports as possible.

Government Accountability Office reports are available both through the library or online.

  • In Catalyst, at the Carleton library (search United States. Government Accountability Office as "author")
  • (reports 1921 to present)
  • GPO (reports to 1989-2008)