The samples below provide a limited snapshot of the work involved in a project like this and highlight the knowledge needed to use primary and secondary sources.
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One student summed up the lessons learned from this project nicely when she said that,. The following section includes selected samples of the excerpts from Senator Kennedy's speech verified by students along with the government information sources that were used to validate the claims and the methodology used to locate the sources. Each example is provided in summary format and highlights the non-linear aspect of work with government information sources.
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The actual student searches were quite long and detailed, but are summarized here for readers' convenience without compromising the valuable insight to the breadcrumbs followed by researchers working with government documents. One of the dominant themes of Senator Kennedy's speech is the state of the economy.
For instance, he claims: Students' first impulse was to try to obtain statistical figures that supported the statement. In the open stacks at a New York city depository library they began looking through The public papers of the Presidents and right above these stacks, the Cumulative Indexes to the public papers of the Presidents of the United States. Their method for documenting that portion of the senator's speech was finding evidence regarding economic distress in America country through the speeches, presentations and events of the two Republican presidents, Richard M.
Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, who were in office before the Democrat Jimmy Carter: Students began by looking through the indexes for President Nixon's papers and found substantial material under the subject terms of economy, inflation and employment or unemployment status. They discovered, for example, that in September , President Nixon addressed Congress regarding national legislative goals, and got a glimpse of how the country had been struggling with inflation, a fuel crisis and an unemployment rate that had been high since In the opening paragraphs of his speech, he stated:.
Students decided to follow the Nixon administration further and found that in the situation had not improved, as indicated by the President's remarks to Congress during the signing of the Economic Report in February of that year:.
The Ford administration was not spared the economic difficulties that America so consistently endured through Nixon's presidency. In January , five months into his abrupt jolt into the Commander-in-Chief's position, President Ford addressed the nation and concerns of economic instability:. Originally the students began searching the library stacks that house the presidential papers to document the second excerpt: Senator Kennedy's long passage about how the Republicans in had been congratulating themselves on following the principles of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the Democratic president credited for introducing extensive social programs into the American government system.
Roosevelt's presidential papers were not with the depository government publication but at a different location because he had them privately published, by three commercial publishing houses, two decades before The public papers of the Presidents were begun in under the auspices of the Office of the Federal Register, National Archives and Records Administration. To comprehend what might have been Roosevelt's worldview as he formulated and fostered the New Deal to which Senator Kennedy so proudly heralded as a legacy of the Democrats as the party that best represents the interests of the American people, students looked at the index at the back of Volume 2 of his fourteen-volume Presidential paper series and saw but two references.
The first was in the preface, where President Roosevelt referred to Volume 1, which covers his years as Governor of the State of New York, and informs the reader that the New Deal had its beginnings before he took the office of president.
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The second listing in that index was in his recollection of his first press conference, dated March 8, , in which he noted:. A quick check of the online historical archives of The New York Times did turn up a critical editorial commentary on the New Deal. It also returned some interesting, impartial reporting on New Deal legislation passed by Congress, including a account of a Arkansas Senator's radio broadcast heralding the passage of the Social Security Act of Robinson and an extensive account of legislation action by the third and final session of the 75th Congress.
Next, students looked at legislative records for those more contemporary Congressional actions to which Senator Kennedy referred in his speech. Their method for documenting the section of Senator Kennedy's speech in which he claims that he had been a sponsor and strong supporter of deregulation in both the airline and the road transport industry may have been less orthodox than would be expected in a government documents course: Airline deregulation Ted Kennedy.
That led us to an article in Wikipedia , which gave us the name of the act along with the public law number. While Wikipedia is not considered to be an authoritative source, it did give students a starting point. The official names for both deregulation acts, the Airline Deregulation Act of and the Motor Carrier Act of , were available, respectively, in the and volumes of the Congressional Information Service four-year cumulative index.
Congressional Information Service and From there they proceeded to the legislative abstracts for and available from the Congressional Information Services The annual abstracts also provide brief explanations of the laws, and both the airline and motor carrier acts stipulate that they were passed in order to promote healthy competition within those industries.
A case of social scholarship for multi-player research in government information sources
However, students still needed a little more in the sense of the legislative history of those acts; they wanted Senate and House reports, hearings and other types of documents that would enable us to confirm Senator Kennedy's involvement in the passage of these laws.
The next source approached was Statutes at Large in which public laws passed during Congressional sessions and approved by the President are compiled. At the end of the respective pages of the public laws that we were researching, they found the following legislative histories for the Airline Deregulation Act of , Public Law , October 24, Armed with these finds, students decided to search within these documents to find the endorsement from Senator Kennedy.
Their first attempt was not fruitful; after skimming through the Senate Report found through New York Public Library and the Government Printing Office online catalogue in print, thanks to the Serial Set. Near the end of the report where the nays and yeas by senators are listed, students were not able to find Senator Kennedy's name. United States Senate Report Even better, they actually found a section in the Congressional Record in which Senator Kennedy addresses President Carter page 10, and gives all the reasons why competition is better than regulation for the airline industry.
He goes on to explain how Senate Bill reforms the present law in four fundamental ways.
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President Carter approved and signed that bill into law on October 24, Instead of going to the print sources, students decided to go to try a government site on the Internet and searched under the Thomas site of the Library of Congress. Once there, they went to the new features section, where we could choose 'previous Congress' as opposed to current on main page only. Students typed in the bill number, S. It returned the right bill and resolution; however, the sponsor listed was not Edward Kennedy but Senators Howard W. Cannon and Bob Packwood.
Students went back and searched by the name of the bill, Motor Carrier Act and chose the 96th Congress. This time they received three results and one of them was a bill sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy. However the bill was S. This bill had been introduced on June 25, Perhaps by the time it went through the various legislative steps that a bill goes through before being signed into law, its name had metamorphosed into the Motor Carrier Act.
When they were researching Democratic support of fair housing legislation and the Equal Rights Amendment students found Lexis Nexis Congressional Universe to be an excellent resource.
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For the fair housing law, they aimed to find proof in Congressional records that the Democratic Party had supported fair housing, and they wanted our evidence to be within the closest possible timeframe to Senator Kennedy's speech. To do this, fair housing was entered into the basic search field of the database along with the date as being between the years and A few select documents were retrieved within this timeframe.
The one students found especially helpful was titled simply—the Fair Housing Act —and it was the introduction of this bill into the House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights in U. House Committee on the Judiciary The bill was referred to as H. The Democrats who authored this version of the bill were Rep. Don Edwards CA and Rep.
The text of that hearing made reference to the original fair housing bill that was passed through the Senate in The Fair Housing Act of Students then searched for this bill in Lexis Nexis by entering 'Fair Housing Act' as a search term and selecting the Congress that was in session at that time the 90th Congress from the drop-down menu. The results of this search gave us the full-text of this hearing, which took place in the U.
Senate before the Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs. When searching Lexis Nexis Congressional to prove Democratic support for the Equal Rights Amendment students tried to find hearings pertaining to the Amendment that had taken place soon before the senator's speech. Therefore, the search started with the terms Equal Rights Amendment and began with the 96th Congress, which was in session at the time of the Democratic National Convention.
No documents, however, were retrieved for that Congress that showed proof of the Democratic Party's standing with the Amendment. For the next search, they decided to try the 95th Congress, which was the first full Congress before the election year. House Committee of the Judiciary, Subcommittee of Civil.. The chairman of that meeting was Representative Don Edwards, a Democrat from California striving to get the seven-year extension passed.
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