Finding Legislative Information on Topics of Interest Using the Library of Congress

If your students are conducting research on topics related to current events or public policy, the Library of Congress offers many online resources that can help.

Image of the United States Capitol

United States Capitol Building. Carol Highsmith, 2007

The best place to start for insights into the workings of the U.S. Congress is Congress.gov. Congress.gov is the official source of information on Congress, and includes searchable records of legislation from 1973 to the present. For example, a quick search on “technology” for the current Congress produces a long list of bills and other results. The search facets on the results page allow students to narrow down the results by bill type, status of legislation, and many other factors.

Congress.gov also offers a series of educational videos on the legislative process for learners of all ages, on topics ranging from the introduction of bills to presidential actions.

In addition, the Congressional Research Service provides access to a selection of the reports it prepares for Congress. These reports cover a wide range of topics, and students might search the CRS reports on subjects of interest to them. For example, a quick search on “technology” produces a number of promising results, including a CRS publication on blockchain technology and agriculture.

United States Reports (Official opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court) is a collection of the official reports of the Supreme Court’s decisions. The collection currently includes reports covering the years 1754-2012 and can be both searched and browsed. Students may find that browsing by major case topic allows them to explore topics of interest to them.

Looking into the nation’s past, the Library’s digital collections document countless moments of civic engagement, conflict, and growth from across centuries of American life that might help students make connections to the present day. Students can browse these collections by topic or search for terms that are of interest to them. For example, a quick search on “suffrage” results in materials in more than a dozen online collections. Again, the search facets on the results page allow students to narrow down the results by format, creation date, and many other options.

And of course, the Library’s portal for K-12 educators has materials that were developed for the classroom but could be of interest to students exploring past precedents for current events. Our classroom materials can be browsed by topic  or searched, as in this search for “civil rights.”

If your students make interesting discoveries in these Library resources, please let us know in the comments!

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