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SW 4144: Social Policies and Issues - Praglin

What counts as social policy?

"Social policy may be defined as any formal government enactment that affects the well-being of people, including laws, regulations, executive orders, and court decisions."

Source: Mizrahi, T., & Davis, L. (2008). Encyclopedia of social work (20th ed.). Washington, D.C. : New York]: NASW Press.

For the Policy Analysis Paper, it's easiest to focus on legislation (a bill = a proposed law). Talk with your professor if you'd like to focus on a different policy type such as a federal agency regulation or international agreement.

Research Tips

  1. Tired of politics as usual? Think about policy research as about issues you care about, not about politics. The political process is one way society gets things done, even though it can be frustrating at times.
  2. Bill = proposed law. Enacted = signed into law. Res = resolution (not usually policy issues so avoid these). Glossary of Legislative Terms
  3. Federal bills tend to be a bit easier to research than state bills.
  4. Depending on the time in the legislative session, there may lots of bills or not very many. To get more options, you can search bills from previous years using most of the suggested tools on this guide.
  5. Don't worry too much if the % chance of a bill passing is pretty low. That's common & doesn't make the issues any less important.
  6. In the Iowa legislature, the "funnel" deadlines mean that most bills that aren't out of committee are "dead".
  7. Keywords matter when you search. A search for an Iowa bill using the keywords school vouchers may not turn up results because that phrase is not in a bill. But a search for school choice or scholarships may show results. Try synonyms and related (broader/narrower) terms.
  8. Don't know the bill number? Don't understand bill language? Look at news articles to help you.

Find a Federal Bill or Law

Find a State Bill or Law

If selecting state-level legislation, focus only on the state where you are registered to vote.

Determine Potential Impact

How a Bill Becomes a Law