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POL 411: Congress: Structure and Function

Research guide for students taking POL 411.


Purdue Libraries, as a federal depository library, provides access to many U.S. Government information resources including those produced by the U.S. Congress. Numerous paper, microform, and electronic information resources are produced by the U.S. House and Senate, congressional committees, and congressional support agencies. Most of these are in the government documents collection on the 1st floor of HSSE Library's periodical stacks and have call numbers beginning with the letters X or Y with the following being examples Y 4.AR 5/3:S.HRG. 108-301, Y 10.2:B 85/3, and Y 1.1/8:109-88.

The Libraries online catalog is a good place to begin looking for congressional information. Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) terms you can use to search include:

For a general overview of the Legislative process, see below.

Journal Article Databases

Useful commercial journals and databases for accessing information about Congress and its activities include:

Federal Resources

Federal resources for accessing congressional legislative information include GovInfo and the Library of Congress' Both of these resources can be used for searching congressional bills, committee reports on legislation, and the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record is a particularly important publication because it contains the text of bills, speeches made by Representatives and Senators, and recorded votes. ProQuest Congressional can be used to search for historic congressional and executive branch documents from 1789-1969 and the Congressional Record and its predecessor publications until 1997. Congressional district maps for Indiana are from the U.S. Geological Survey's National Atlas of the United States.

House & Senate Info

Websites for the House of Representatives and Senate contain information about the overall workings of each house, links to the websites of individual Representatives and Senators, and links to congressional committee websites. The House of Representatives History Office provides information about this institution's historical development and evolution. Similar information on Senate History and Art is also available. The Clerk of the House features administrative information about Representatives and House activities including members foreign travel reports and biographical information on historic and current members.

Congressional Committees & Hearings

Congressional committees are very valuable information resources. These committees are responsible for reviewing proposed or existing legislation, conducting oversight of current federal programs, and determining funding for these programs. Congressional committees have subpoena authority and generally swear witnesses in before their testimony. Witnesses testifying before congressional committees include experts from government agencies, the military, academe, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and average citizens. Hearing transcripts will contain questioning of witnesses by committee members which can become heated and a wide variety of substantive reports submitted by committee members from a variety of sources. Committees also publish reports on proposed legislation and reports documenting their activities during individual two-year congressional sessions.

Paper copies of congressional committee hearings from 1975-present are located in the Y 4 area of the HSSE Library Government Documents collection on the 1st floor of the HSSE periodical stacks. Some pre-1975 congressional committee publications are available through the Hathitrust Catalog. Many recent versions of these publications are also Internet accessible. Congressional committee hearings are valuable sources for understanding the congressional funding, oversight, and policymaking progress.

Other Resources