Doing Background Research:
The issues discussed in this year's elections are not new. So, before going to books, articles, or web sites it's a good idea to do some background research. This will give you some idea of the scope of your topic, its history, and standard theories or research. Knowing that, you will have some kind of standard with which you can evaluate the value of the sources you discover.
In background research you are looking for an explanation by an established expert in the field that is comprehensive, up-to-date, and non-biased. One of the best places to look for background information is in specialized encyclopedias. To locate specialized encyclopedias in the College of DuPage Library, you will need to know what Library of Congress call number represents your subject. For example, if you were doing a speech on a medical topic, you would want to browse the call letter "R" in the reference area; for a topic of crime you would be in the call letter "HV". The following sources are also excellent sources of background information since they are written as objective overviews.
- Congress and the Nation, Reference JK 1041.C6
- Elections A to Z, Reference JK 1976 .M57
- Encyclopedia of Interest Groups and Lobbyists in the United States, Reference JK 1118 .N47 2000
- Encyclopedia of the American Legislative System, Reference JF 501 .E53 1994
- Encyclopedia of the Democratic Party, Reference JK 2352 K87 1997
- Encyclopedia of the Republican Party, Reference JK 2352 K87 1997
- Encyclopedia of Third Parties in America, Reference JK 2261 .E474 2000
- Guide to U. S. Elections, Reference JK 1967 .C662
- Special Interest Group Profiles for Students, Reference JK 1118 .S688 1999
- Campaign Finance Law, Reference KF 4920 .Z95 L5 2002
- CQ Researcher, Reference H 35 .E352
- CQ Weekly Report
- Directory of Congressional Voting Scores and Interest Group Ratings, Reference JK 1051 .S555 2000
- Federal Election Laws and Regulations, Reference KF 4885 .A29 F4 2004
- Issues and Controversies on File, Reference HN 1 .A1 I7
- America Votes, Reference JK 1967 .A8
- American Presidential Campaigns and Elections, Reference JK 1965 .A57 2003
- Encyclopedia of American Political History, Reference E 183 .E48 2001
- National Party Conventions, 1831-2000, Reference JK 2255 .N373 2000
Books may be an appropriate source to find information on your topic. Books in the COD Library are considered reputable sources, but they may not contain the most up to date information on the topic. Use the Library Catalog to do a subject search on your topic. If you don't locate anything with a subject search, try a keyword search to look for essays or chapters in books. If you still aren't finding anything ask at the Reference Desk in person, by phone at 630-942-3364, or online.
Articles are best for the most current information. Remember that some articles may be slanted, so it's important to evaluate them against your background research. These general databases will have information about almost every topic, but some topics may be covered in greater depth in a subject specific database. You will need to have your library card to access these databases from off campus.
- Academic OneFile (1980-present)
- Was Expanded Academic ASAP. Indexes over 2500 journals and magazines.
- Academic Search Premier (1984-present)
- Indexes over 3,000 journals and magazines.
- Communication and Mass Media Complete
- Articles and other research materials in areas related to communication and mass media. Indexing and abstracts for more than 600 journals and full text for 301 journals.
- National Newspapers (Proquest)(dates vary)
- Full text of the Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. These may also be searched separately.
Using the Internet:
Students often turn to the web as the first source for information. It may be the most convenient, but it is not always the most reliable source. Anyone can publish a web site. Each web site you find should be evaluated for accuracy, credibility, objectivity, and currency. Be especially careful when looking for information on controversial topics; many sites' sole purpose is to "sell" their position on a topic. The Library has a checklist of tips to help you evaluate sites. Some web sites you might want to consult are below. Watch for new items being added.
- Almanac of Policy Issues
- The Buying of the President
- From the Center for Public Integrity, "an investigation of how money shapes presidential campaigns."
- Campaign 2008
- Council on Foreign Relations' analysis on the candidates positions of foreign relations.
- CQ Politics
- Political news and Blogs.
- A project of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health issues only.
- My Election Decision
- Developed jointly by Lawrence University and University of California/Irvine. First see who you agree with on the issues, then find out more about that candidate's position. Take the opportunity to get involved in online discussions.
- National Issues Forum
- Public Agenda Online
- Religion and Politics 2008
- From the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
- Science and Technology in the 2008 Presidential Election
- Student Voices
- Another Annenberg Public Policy Center resource, this site provides background information and allows you to enter into a discussion with others.
- FactCheck.org Annenberg Political Fact Check
- "PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly to help you find the truth in the presidential campaign."
The Media and Politics
- AltWeeklies.com: 2008 Presidential Campaign
- Compilation of news stories and commentary concerning the 2008 U.S. presidential election, from more than 100 alternative U.S. and Canadian newsweeklies.
- Center for Digital Democracy
- How has politics been affected by new forms of media.
- Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch
- Nonprofit organization that investigates public relations spin.
- CIRCLE: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
- Promotes research on the civic and political engagement of Americans between the ages of 15 and 25.
- Internet's Broader Role in Campaign 2008 A report by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that shows the impact of social networking and online video sites on elections.
- Pew Research Center Reports on Election '08
- Another Pew Research Center site that deals more with media impact and portrayal.
- Mixed Messages: Tracking Political Advertising
- Recent news on politics from a variety of trustworthy sources. Provides an opportunity to comment and see comments made by others.
- Now: Adventures in Democracy
- A PBS product containing news and analysis of the 2008 presidential campaign. Checkout the Democracy Toolkit.
- Real Clear Politics
- Aggregates political news from newspapers, magazines, and blogs. Content is manually chosen by the editors. Also includes speeches and transcripts.
- Stanford Political Communication Lab
- Campaign ads, discussion of image based politics, and information on negative advertising.
Just for fun:
- Indecision 2008
- Political news as comedy and parody.
National Candidates and Elections
- All-American Presidential Forums on PBS
- A panel comprised of journalists of color moderate presidential forums on issues that affect all Americans. Video of the forums is included as well as background information.
- A publication of the State Department, this is aimed at keeping Americans abroad up to date on the election.
- American National Election Studies
- "The American National Election Studies (ANES) produces high quality data on voting, public opinion, and political participation to serve the research needs of social scientists, teachers, students, policy makers and journalists who want to better understand the theoretical and empirical foundations of national election outcomes."
- CBS News
- Center for Responsive Politics (Open Secrets.org)
- Council on Foreign Relations
- CNN Political Ticker
- Congressional Quarterly Inc. has been reporting on politics since 1945.
- Debating Our Destiny
- Two documentaries about the last 48 years of presidential debates.
- The Democratic Party
- Elections 2008
- A collection of links to sites with information. From University of Michigan, so some sites refer to Michigan politics. Links to UM licensed databases will not be available to C.O.D. students, but check our Article Databases page to see if we also subscribe.
- Financial Times
- The Financial Times is a British publication.
- Online Newshour: Vote 2008
- Open Congress
- A project of the Sunlight Foundation and PPF (Participatory Politics Foundation), both political watchdog groups.
- P2008 The 2008 Presidential Campaign
- Contains links to other useful sites as well as background information and analysis.
- Project Vote Smart
- One of the first political information sites on the Web.
- Republican National Committee
- 2008 Presidential Candidates (Washington Post)
- Voter Turnout
- From the Brookings Institution. Analysis of voter turnout based on historical patterns.
- Washington Week and National Journal
- You tube videos of candidates speaking on the issues and well as individual voters speaking out on the issues.
- Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability
- Democratic Party of Illinois
- Illinois at OpenSecrets.org
- Illinois Issues
- Illinois Politicians on the Issues
- Illinois Public Interest Research Group
- Illinois Republican Party
- Institute of Government and Public Affairs
- League of Women Voters of Illinois
- Stateline.org: Illinois
Finding Statistics and Opinion:
Speech students often use statistics as attention getters or to support arguments. Statistics may be found in books, in articles, or at reliable web sites. When using statistics it is important to keep in mind the source of the statistics. Some things to consider include: what exactly is being counted, are the statistics from a reliable group or organization, are they reasonably current, can they be verified from a second source? Some good sources for statistics are:
- American Fact Finder
- Finding Data on the Internet
- General Statistical Sources (Columbia University)
- Statistical Abstract of the United States, Reference HA 202 .U5 S93
- Statistical Resources on the Web
Opinion pieces, such as editorials or polls are particularly useful for persuasive speeches. Some sources you may want to consult are:
- Editorials on File, Reference D 410 .E4
- The Gallup Poll
- (access to full information sometimes limited to subscription only), Reference HN 90 .P8 G35
- Pew Research Center
- Well respected for polling information.
- Polling Report.com (state polls are subscription only)
- Puts polling information in context.
- Public Agenda Online
Mock Senate Simulation
- Mock Senate Simulation
- Research a particular senator and write a bill. Select party leaders and learn to strategize in a party caucus. Work in a committee, practice reciprocity, and conduct mark-up negotiations. Learn the basics of parliamentary procedure and special Senate rules. Assume the identity of the researched senator and use persuasive skills to pass the bill.
Locating Audiovisual Aids:
Audiovisual aids can be very important visuals that help make your point. You may find illustrations, charts, or diagrams in the reference books you used for background research or in books or magazines in the Library. The Library has the necessary equipment for you to make copies or transparencies (black and white or color) or to scan pictures onto a disk.
You may also use the Library catalog to locate videos or other types of media. Just do a subject search on your topic and limit the results to the material type you are looking for.
The web is also a good place to find visual aids and there are now several search engines that make the process easier. A Google Image Search is usually very helpful.
Some other sources on the web include:
- AltaVista Image Search
The MLA format (Modern Language Association) is commonly used to create bibliographies or works cited pages. These resources may help you.