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History Research Guide

Learn about the process and sources for historical research

Researching Topics in Law and Policy

Doing research on topics related to law and policy from a historical perspective requires similar skills and strategies to the ones that you are already developing and using in your history coursework.

There are also specific types of sources that may be especially important to this kind of research which you may not have encountered before. They include information published by governments, legal opinions, legal scholarship, public policy documents, and information related to campaigns and political interest groups.

This page provides several resources for using these sources, and if you have additional questions, please reach out to a Teaching & Learning Librarian!

Government Information

Government documents are materials published by any branch, department, or agency of a government. They can be useful to research these entities, and they can also be useful as a way to provide historical context for political issues, legal developments, or major events in the government's territory.


United States Federal Government Information

The UH Libraries are a selective member of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), a program which ensures that certain United States federal government publications are made available in either print or electronic form to the public. The print collection is in the basement of the M.D. Anderson Library, and the electronic resources can be found through the library's website. The following resources will help you most in figuring out where you can access the documents you need:

Supreme Court Information

State and Local Government Information

State and local governments also produce government documents and information that are often available publicly. These are not always as easy to access and might depend on the size of the government as to whether they are available or even exist. Using Google to identify the official website for a state or local government can be a good place to start. The following are also good resources for the most immediately relevant to the UH community:

International Government Information

Each country has its own government that produces documents and information you can use in historical research. Accessing this information can be a little more tricky, as it may require foreign language knowledge depending on the country. Some governments might also be more restrictive about the type of information they make available. Using Google to identify the official website of a foreign government can be a good place to start. The following resources can also be helpful depending on the information you're trying to find:

Legal Scholarship

To research legal history, you will want to consult both the documents that prescribe the law along with discussions and debates about these legal events by experts. These kinds of discussions can be found scholarly journal articles. In the field of law, scholarly journals are called "law reviews," and it may be helpful to remember this terminology when you search the following databases.