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POS 2112 (Duncan): State and Local Government: Home

This is a guide to research for a documented paper in Prof. Duncan's State and Local Government class.

Research Process

Start your research by collecting background information. During this stage you will:

  • Explore possible topics.
  • Become aware of keywords and phrases related to the topic.

Your goal is to find an overview of the issue(s). Try this exercise:

  • Find the website of a major metropolitan newspaper. Search for the words "election," "state" and "problems." Then try substituting a particular state and/or a particular problem, for example: election, Florida, disenfranchisement of ex-offenders

From your preliminary research, identify a state of interest and a relevant election issue. (Example: Florida and disenfranchisement of felons)

Turn this topic into a question. (Example: What actions have been taken to address disenfranchisement of felons in Florida?)

The purpose of your research will be to find answers to this question.

To answer this question, you may need to answer several more specific questions. Use your assignment sheet for guidance. For example:

  • What do statistics show about how the issue has impacted the state?
  • What specific events show how the issue has impacted the state?
  • What legislative actions has the state taken to address this issue?
  • What executive actions has the state taken to address this issue?
  • What judicial actions have addressed this issue in the state?
  • Which interest groups are addressing this issue in the state? What actions are they taking?

With your research questions in mind, identify the sources of information you will need. Consider:

  • Best sources for statistics?
  • Best sources for current events?
  • Best sources for information on legislative, executive and judicial actions?
  • Best sources for information on interest groups?


  • What search tools will you need to access these sources? Google? Library databases? Library catalog?

This is where your librarians can help you! See the boxes below for suggestions.

Take notes on the information you have found. Evaluate:

  • Are your sources credible?
  • Are a variety of viewpoints represented? If no, what biases exist?
  • Have you answered all of your questions? If no, what do you still need to know?

If the answer to any of these is no, seek additional sources! If yes to all, you are ready to begin writing.

If you've done a thorough job, you will have a variety of credible sources that help answer your question(s) about the topic. Review your notes:

  • What are the main ideas?
  • Which sources support each main idea?
  • Write an MLA citation for each of these sources.

Your library or the writing center can help you with MLA Citations. See the library's MLA Citation Guides.

Interest Groups

Interest groups are organizations that advocate for a cause. Most have informative websites. Try the following strategy: search Google with your keywords, the word advocacy, and (Example: colorado marijuana advocacy

The following websites may also be helpful:

News Sources

You can find news sources through Google, but library databases are more effective for searching across many major newspapers. To use databases, you must log in to the library.


There are many ways to research state and local legislation. Interest groups and news sources will have information about new bills and laws. For primary sources (actual text of bills and laws), try the following:


Government agencies are excellent sources for statistics. Try the following strategies:

  • Search Google with your keywords and (Example: state election fraud site:gov).
  • Search state and local government sites (see directories above)

The following website may also be helpful:

Think tanks are also useful sources for statistics. These are independent organizations that research issues and trends. The following websites may be helpful: