This is the "Step 2: Look for Context" page of the "Legislative History--Federal" guide.
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Fordham University Law Library
This is a step-by-step guide for locating or compiling the legislative history of federal statutes. Read the General Introduction below and then follow the steps. To track a bill in the current Congress, go to the Bill Tracking tab.
Last Updated: Dec 5, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Step 2: Look for Context Print Page


Prior to tracking a bill or compiling the legislative history of a public law, the researcher should read as much as possible about the legislation in secondary sources.  Reading commentary on the legislation of interest will focus one's research and avoid duplication of effort.  The researcher should consult the sources below as appropriate as well as the popular press, especially the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.


Congressional Quarterly Publications

  • CQ Weekly: Publishes detailed news summaries of new federal legislative activities and covers the details and purpose of major legislation.

  • CQ Researcher: Provides in-depth articles on selected areas of legislative activity.


Non-Legal Periodical Databases

  • ABI/Inform is a index to full-text articles from journals in business, finance, economics.  A good source of articles discussing the economic or financial impact of legislation.

  • PAIS International is the leading index of articles in scholarly journals an periodicals on topics related to public affairs, government, and public policy.                

Congressional Sources

  • Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports: These reports are written by Library of Congress researchers at the request of the Congress on significant policy issues.  Selected reports are available online through, an initiative of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

  •  Government Accountability Office (GAO) Reports: GAO Reports provide in-depth analysis of the effectiveness and efficiency of federal legislative and regulatory initiatives.


Advocacy Groups and Think Tanks

Many advocacy groups and “think tanks” publish news and policy briefs about legislation which they favor or oppose.  Information from these groups is often quite comprehensive. Although interest groups may have an axe to grind, they usually try to get the legislative facts straight.

  • Google: Use keywords and then look for links to the websites of groups that might have an interest in the legislation of interest.

  • The Encyclopedia of Associations: Search the Gale Directory Library through the Fordham University Library for national and international interest groups.


Congressional Committees

For recent legislation, the websites of Congressional Committees can provide a great deal of information about the legislative process behind the consideration of a statute.




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