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Law and Public Policy

Getting Started

Ready..Set...Go! Prepare for Summer Success

This guide was originally prepared for the Law and Policy Research Session at our annual  Ready... Set... Go! Prepare for Summer Success event.

For handouts and slides from the other sessions, go to the event guide.

Reference Works

Don't forget print sources! These reference works can give quick background and cross-references when you are starting your research.

Public Policy Research Guides

These research guides may also include useful resources.  Guides from other schools may link to protected databases or local copies of print items. Check HOLLIS or Harvard E-Resources to see if we have access to a particular database.

Subject Specific Research Guides

Public policy research often overlaps with other disciplines.  The following guides can provide a useful starting point for specific areas of research. If your subject isn't represented below, try googling your subject and the phrase (in quotes!) "research guide."

Books & Articles

Search HOLLIS Classic

Search HOLLIS+ for books and articles


Useful subject terms include:

  • Social Policy
  • Public Policy (Law)
  • Political Planning

Not at Harvard? Try searching WorldCat

Other Article Sources

Find Public Policy Articles

Public Policy Journals

Legislation & Government Reports

Law and Legislation

Congressional Research Reports

The Congressional Research Service provides background research for members of Congress.  CRS Reports are not automatically made public, so there is no single source for finding CRS Reports. Try these resources to locate CRS Reports on your issue.

Government Research Reports and Analysis

Reports & Working Papers

Working Papers

If you're looking for works in progress or articles that have been accepted, but not yet published, here are some places to search.

Grey Literature

"Grey Literature" refers to documents produced by entities that are not primarily publishers. It can include reports, memos, working papers and internal documents. These research guides give some good sources and tips for locating these types of materials. 


Looking for a report written by a think tank, non-profit, or other NGO? The links below include tools that can help you search across think tank sites, find organizations by topic, and more.

If you know which organization you're looking for, you can of course go directly to an organization's website. If you have trouble finding something you think should exist on a specific site, remember it's easy to create a custom search engine with Google. For example, if you are looking for the recent Rand report Planning for an Aging Nation, you would type the following into the search box:

"Planning for an Aging Nation"

This will limit your search to just Rand's website. You can limit your search further to just results in PDF by running the following search:

"Planning for an Aging Nation" filetype:pdf

News & Current Awareness

News Sources

Current Awareness

If you're following an issue, there are a number of ways to keep up on developments. Lexis and Westlaw both have alerting services that will send you an email when there are new results for a search you've run. Some general academic databases listed in this guide also have alerting services. BNA's newsletters are an excellent resource You can also search blogs and news sites for new stories, developments, and analyses. If you're new to RSS, check out Google Reader's Getting Started Guide.

Agencies, Think Tanks & Advocacy Groups

U.S. Government Agencies

International Agencies

Think Tanks

Interest Groups and Associations

Data Sources

Data Sources

Public Opinion

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