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American State and Local Politics: PS 2102

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.


More ideas

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.

PressReader 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.

Nexis  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. 

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. 

 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.

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Rick Lezenby
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