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PS 2102 - American State and Local Politics: Home

Getting ideas

One place to start is the site Opposing Viewpoints in Context.  It provides information on all sides of various social issues and hot topics and pro and con essays, topic overviews, periodical articles, statistics, and images

Also consider Films on Demand, a database which has a number of documentaries on a wide range of topics to inspire you and point out experts and researchers. All kinds of topics here, including some specifically in the category political science

Magazines, newspapers, and blogs are useful for finding current events, reading about them from interesting, engaging writers (because of academic language, academic writers almost never are) and seeing what research is getting attention. Politics and lawmaking are one of the main staples of newspapers and news magazines. Reports and analysis in these differ significantly from the theoretical perspectives of academic journals.  It is always a good idea to get a good grounding on events before tackling academic research on a topic.

Let's start with sources for general audiences for finding topics.

There are a number of databases that cover newspapers. 

Access World News has newspapers arranged by state.

Library PressDisplay also has newspapers from the last three months. Select USA from the left-hand column. The list is alphabetical, so it helps to know something about cities and towns in your state.

Proquest Newsstand has major newspapers from the U.S. and around the world as well as local papers such as the Philadelphia Inquirer (1983-present) and the Philadelphia Daily News.

LexisNexis Academic also has major papers from around the world as well as many other sources, such as magazines and transcripts. 


To give you an idea of the kinds of academic research topics that turn up, here is a search on the phrase in quotes "state policy" AND united states in the database Academic Search Complete, which shows results for academic journals, magazines, and newspapers, each of which you can select to narrow to that format from the left-hand column. Many of these articles are comparing responses to a topic in a number of states, but you can use the "Geography" tab in the left column to see if there are studies and articles specifically on your state.


Again, magazines and newspapers are usually the most readable and understandable. Ultimately, though, academic journals, also called scholarly journals and peer-reviewed journals, are the sources of articles you should use to support your writing.


CQ Researcher Online is a publication that does excellent balanced reports on all kinds of topics particularly of interest to policymaking-- with lots of help in suggesting other sources.  It's both a good source for looking for ideas and looking to see if they have covered a topic you have in mind. 

CQ Roll Call "As the premier source of timely news, objective facts and analysis, and coverage of elections and the politics of legislation, we keep our fingers on the pulse of the legislative process and give our clients the tools they need to maximize their influence."

CQ Press Electronic Library has a number of sources that can be useful particularly on U.S. government and politics.


National Journal has daily updates along with more detailed resources such as the Almanac of American Politics (the Almanac is also in text form through the database LexisNexis Academic.


More background sources can be found through theTemple Library Summon page.


You might also try browsing for references to a topic in magazines and newspapers using a word for the topic and combine it with the phrase "state policy."  In most cases, this will lead to a reference to a professor of political science that the reporter has contacted to get an expert view.  This also gives you the name of a researcher in the area of a topic, which is also a good way to search. 


Political science research often involves theory applied to events long after the events themselves have taken place.  Research is first reported by researchers in academic journals and books.  Online Reference sources are often a good place to get context and reviews of research.  For example, see online The Encyclopedia of Political Science.


Sometimes, the research strikes reporters as having something interesting about it for a more general audience and it will get written about in magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Or, reporters will ask researchers for views on current events.  Looking for names of researchers quoted as experts in blogs, current magazines and newspapers is often a good way of finding out scholars that are interested in a topic. Then, use those names to follow up on their research.  

Reference Librarian

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Rick Lezenby

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