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GOVT 2305 SO Bowman: Getting Started

Starting Your Research

Take the time to understand your assignment. This may be more complicated than it seems. Read the assignment carefully as soon as you receive it so that you can budget your time effectively, and ask your instructor about anything that is unclear.

Ask yourself a few basic questions as you read and jot down the answers on the assignment sheet:

  • Why did your instructor ask you to do this particular task?
  • Who is your audience?
  • What kind of evidence do you need to support your ideas?
  • What kind of writing style is acceptable?
  • What are the absolute rules of the paper?

How do I choose a topic?

Choosing an appropriate topic to research is critical to success. Choose one that fits the assignment and that interests you. Do not choose a topic so recent or narrow that little information is available, or so broad that the amount of information available is overwhelming. Consult with your instructor about your topic before you begin your research.

Why do I need background information?

You may not initially know a lot about the issues and debates that surround a topic. Reading background information will help you determine what some of those issues are and figure out whether your topic may be too broad or too narrow within the field. Preliminary research will also help you become more familiar with the terminology used to discuss your topic, which will be of use in identifying keywords to use when searching for journal articles and other information.


You can search the library to find many reference sources such as specialized encyclopedias.




Debates are speeches and floor remarks that occur in the House and Senate. This can include remarks about pending legislation and proposed amendments. Since 1874, these have been published in the Congressional Record, which is issued daily when Congress is in session. At the end of a session, the daily editions are compiled, edited, and bound in volumes constituting a permanent edition. For older Congresses, debates were published in:

  • 1789-1824 Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States,
  • 1824-1837 Register of Debates in Congress  
  • 1833-1873 Congressional Globe.

See also:

How do you cite debates?

Debates printed in the Congressional Record are cited using volume and the page number.

See Bluebook Rule 13.5. Example:

152 Cong. Rec. H2,107 (daily ed. May 4, 2006).

If you need to cite the Bound Edition and you only have a Daily Edition citation, you can either do a full-text search for unique terms or try HeinOnline's lookup tool:

Congressional Record: Daily to Bound Locator - Search by date or Daily citation. Not comprehensive; see coverage information.

Famous and Infamous Case Transcripts

The Web's largest and most visited collection of original essays, trial transcripts and exhibits, maps, images, and other materials relating to the greatest trials in world history.

Opening Statements

By: J. Alexander Tanford. (2002). The Trial Process: Law, Tactics and Ethics.

Five-minute video from Mock Trial University.

Closing Arguments

Opinion piece by Jacob A. Stein on elements that make for good, persuasive closing arguments.

Direct Examination


By: T. Pratt. (2014).

Raising Objections

Useful Link

Adapted from South Florida Libraries

What's a debate?

Congressional Record:  Proceedings and Debates of the U.S. Congress

The Congressional Record is a substantially verbatim account of remarks made during the proceedings of the House and Senate. It has been published by the Government Printing Office (GPO) since 1873.  Before 1873, records of congressional proceedings were kept under various titles: Annals of CongressRegister of Debates and Congressional Globe

Official Reporters and Member offices edit and add text following the proceedings, after which the text of amendments, conference reports, and some bills and resolutions are added. Other materials such as lists of added cosponsors, notices of messages from the President and the other chamber; lists of Presidential nominations; and Résumés of Congressional Activity are also included.

GPO publishes new issues of the Congressional Record daily and transmits each new issue to the Library of Congress overnight. A new issue becomes available on the following morning.

Know what debate you're looking for?

The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. At the back of each daily issue is the "Daily Digest," which summarizes the day's floor and committee activities.

Source Document format Coverage
FDSys PDF or Text (Text only for 1994) 104th Congress to present
THOMAS HTML (with link to PDF from FDSys) 101st Congress to present
American Memory GIFF or TIFF images 1st Congress to 43rd Congress 
HeinOnline Online


Types of Sources


Man with arms crossed in front of a chalkboard.

How do I if a resource is scholarly (or academic)?

Scholarly sources are often written by professors, researchers, and experts in the field with advanced degrees. They are written for other scholars, professionals, and students. Scholarly resources also use technical language of the field, almost always have a list of references, and often provide research findings and statistics.

What about popular sources?

Popular Sources:

  • are for the general population
  • avoid technical terminology and use easy-to-understand language
  • usually do not have bibliographies or references
  • often written by staff writers with little specialized knowledge
  • are written for entertainment and general knowledge


Source: Cornell University