UCB Libraries


INVS 1523: Civic Engagement

Resources for Civic Engagement:  Using Democracy as a Tool for Positive Social Change


  • Starting Your
  • Legislative Resources
  • Finding Articles
  • Finding Books
  • Citing Your Sources and Getting Additional Help


Getting Started

 First things first. If you are off campus, you will need to configure VPN to access library resources.

 Next: get ready to keep track of the sources you find. Chinook and many of the relevant databases include tools to export citations into RefWorks. If you are not using another citation manager (Zotero, etc.), you might want to set up an account. RefWorks can format your bibliography can format your bibliography in a variety of style formats.


 A good way to start is to make a list of the types of sources (such as books, articles, encyclopedia entries, statistics, etc.) that you think you will need for the topic.

 Reference Resources

 Reference resources such as encyclopedias and handbooks can be a great place to start when you are developing a new topic. They can provide you with an overview and background information, summarize established knowledge and important facts, discuss key figures, and offer a list of recommended sources or readings.


This selection of electronic reference resources is intended to give you an idea how useful they can be. Many more, ranging from the general to the specific, are available to you in print and electronic form and may be found by looking under the heading Reference-General  in Find Articles & More.

  •  Reference Universe
  • Gale Reference Library
  • Oxford Handbooks Online   Important source of scholarly research reviews, continually updated by subject experts.  Broad topic areas include articles and books on narrower subtopics.  The topic Political Science has many subtopics that may be of interest, such as:  Political Behavior, Political Institutions, and Public Policy.   


Tips for Developing a Search Strategy

 Before starting your search, break down your topic into discrete concepts that represent its major aspects. These concepts will be used to develop search terms, that is, significant words or phrases (nouns or noun phrases work best) that can be used when searching in online catalogs or research databases. Your search terms will determine the quantity and relevance of results you retrieve.

  1. For more flexible searching, think of various ways to express these search terms:
    • synonyms (related terms)
    • broader terms
    • narrower terms

The Search Strategy Worksheet  can be quite useful in helping you develop search terms for your topic.

  1. Tailor the search terms to the type of material you are searching. When searching for:
    • Books and other larger units, broader terms tend to work better because the topics covered by books tend to be more general.
    • Journal articles and other smaller units, narrower terms tend to work better because the topics covered by articles tend to be more specific.
    • Full text of books or articles, narrower terms or even unique terms like names or places tend to work better because you are searching on the full text.
  1. Adding terms that represent geographical or chronological facets may be useful.
  2. If you get too many results, try using narrower search terms or add another concept to your search. If you get too few results, try using broader terms, synonyms or subtract a concept from your search.
  3. Avoid using redundant or overlapping search terms, like law AND legislation. This is a common reason for getting too few results.



  • AND: taxation AND revolution AND colonies (must find all terms)
  • OR: revolution OR rebellion (must find one of the terms)
  • NOT: Massachusetts NOT Boston (must find first term NOT second term)


  • Phrases: “Stamp Act” (must find that phrase in that order)
  • Synonyms: (revolution OR rebellion) AND taxation







US Government and Policy    
These and other sources can be found on the Find Articles and More page under Government – Congress.


  • CQ Press Electronic Library CU This database is an important resource for researching American government, politics, history, public policy, and current affairs.   Some of the useful tools included in this collection are:
    • CQ Researcher   Each Researcher essay is a single-themed, 12,000-word report written by an experienced journalist and vetted by editorial staff.  The essays all contain overviews and background; an assessment of the current situation; tables and maps; and pro/con statements.
    • CQ Weekly      CQ Weekly is a comprehensive review of Capitol Hill activity from the previous week.    
  • Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports CU
    The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the research arm or think tank of Congress. CRS reports are short (usually) background briefs prepared for members of Congress on any issue that is a topic of discussion. They are well researched, non-partisan, and include bibliographies that lead to more information.

Federal Laws and Legislative History


    • ProQuest Congressional   CU Want access to Congressional publications such as reports, hearings, debates and documents?  Use this database for full-text access.  There’s also a link out to Legislative Insight, a legislative history database for federal laws.
    • Congress.gov Congress.gov is in an initial beta phase with plans to transform the Library of Congress's existing congressional information, THOMAS.  To compare the scope of legislative information on THOMAS.gov versus the scope of legislative information on the beta site, see Coverage Dates for Legislative Information.


State Government and Policy


  • National Conference on State Legislatures   NCSL is a bipartisan organization which provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.


Colorado Laws and Legislative Information


  • Colorado General Assembly  Search for the text of bills and bill status information
  • Audio and Video Broadcasts  Colorado legislative chamber and committee proceedings  
  • Colorado Revised Statutes    Full-text of Colorado laws currently in effect
  • Colorado Legislative Council  The Legislative Council prepares memoranda, bill tracking documents, summaries of legislation, reports, and issue briefs related to topics of interest to members of the Colorado General Assembly and the public.
  • Colorado Legislative Council research publications    The Colorado General Assembly relies on the Legislative Council’s nonpartisan research contained in these reports.  These research publications (along with the Session Laws) comprise Colorado’s most authoritative written legislative history.  Digitized and archived by the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

Tracking Legislation:


  • US bills and state legislation: Govtrack      Better source for tracking federal legislation.  State bill tracking is just available as of last year.
  • Colorado bills: Colorado Capitol Watch   General bill tracking  information is free. 
  • Colorado Public Radio’s Government Blog:   Check and Balance     Covers the latest issues being debated in the Colorado Legislature

Legislative history research guides  - Colorado

These are excellent guides for creating a legislative history in Colorado:        






  • To find articles in journals, first select a database.  To find a list of databases, use the Find Articles and More  page.  Databases are grouped by subject (e.g. History) and provide lists of databases.  For articles on legislation and public policy  information try the subject Political Science or  Law and Legislation..  You might also try looking in the more general databases listed under the topic: General and Interdisciplinary.

  • Academic Search Premier  CU   A multi-disciplinary database which provides full text journal coverage for nearly all academic areas of study - including social sciences, humanities, education, computer sciences, engineering, language and linguistics, arts & literature, medical sciences, and ethnic studies. Most articles are available online.   Includes peer-reviewed scholarly sources and popular magazine.


  •  PAIS International  CU     Database covering global public policy and social issues including health, finance, economics, education, technology, and the environment for the U.S. and abroad. Covers periodicals, books, hearings, reports, gray literature, government publications, Internet resources, and other publications from 120 countries. Contains more than 1.5 million records dating back to 1915, each with bibliographic information and brief, descriptive abstracts. Includes materials in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish with English language abstracts.   


  • Lexis/Nexis Academic     CU       Extensive coverage of news, legal and business information. 
      • Law reviews   Law review articles are great sources of information.  Not only do they provide scholarly analysis of legal issues, they also contain extensive footnotes to “primary” sources like cases, laws and regulations.   Coverage:  full text access back to early 1980s.


To find articles in newspapers, use the News and Newspapers link on the Find Articles and More page.  Start with the Current News resourcesand try Proquest Newstand for full text of national, international, and regional news, newswires, transcripts, magazine articles, legal and business information, public opinion polls, and other sources.


Public Opinion




You can locate sources for your research in the CU Libraries by searching the Chinook library catalog. Chinook is where you want to search for books, journals, microforms and other materials but not articles.


The Advanced Keyword search in Chinook Classic is the most flexible way to search for titles on your topic. Notice that you can specify available items, electronic version, language, location, and material type, among other limits.


Chinook Classic search tips
The following tips will help you make the most of your Chinook Classic searching:

  1. From the full record of a relevant title, you can find similar titles by:
    • Looking at the Subjects listed and clicking on the links to find other titles in the catalog with the same subject heading.
    • Clicking on the "Nearby Call Numbers" button. This will allow you to virtually browse the collection by showing you what other titles would be shelved next to that one.
  2. Titles may have different locations in the CU library system, for example, Norlin Stacks, PASCAL offsite, or Norlin Library Periodicals Collection. If you are wondering where these locations are, click on the location link.
  1. You can use the "Request It!" button to:

Requesting electronic copies:

    • You can order an electronic copy of a book chapter in a book we own through ILLiad.
    • You can order an electronic copy of an article in a print journal we own by clicking on the "Request a PDF (UCB only)" button in the record for the print journal (sample record).

BOOKS from Other Libraries

  • Prospector
    If an item is checked out or we do not own it, search the Prospector consortial catalog by clicking the brown "Search Prospector to find it in another library" button that appears on the right.  You can order a copy of what you want online if is available to be loaned from another Prospector library. Circulation will contact but email you when it is available for pick-up.
  • WorldCat/Interlibrary Loan
    If the item you are looking for is not in Chinook or Prospector, you can request it through Interlibrary Loan (ILL). Generally, an ILL request will take longer to be delivered than material requested through Prospector.


Citing Your Sources


  • RefWorks CU
    RefWorks is a database that lets you save your citations and then format them in the style of your choice. Check out this quick guide for help using this resource.
  • Citing Sources
    This guide goes over the various formats you can use to cite materials. It also provides links to quick citation sheets.

Additional Help


Research and Subject Guides Database
You can find information on how to start your research, how to use databases and  how to cite material. Either click on the box for a specific type of guide and then browse among lists of research guides, or do a keyword search (by topic, course, citation style, etc.).

How Do I pages    FAQs about the library and finding sources

Chat reference is available when the window appears below:


We are always happy to answer questions or set up appointments to have a more in-depth discussion of your research.



Leanne Walther                                             govpubs@colorado.edu


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