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CMNS 261 - Finding Government Publications

CMNS 261
Finding Public Policy Documents
Sylvia Roberts
Policy: Definition
…an overall plan embracing general goals
and procedures and intended to guide
and determine decisions.
The Penguin English Dictionary .(2000). Retrieved 04 February
2006, from xreferplus. .
Public policy changes initiated by…
Political parties (election promises)
 International treaties
 Government departments responding to
environmental influences, e.g.
technology, other gov’t policy
 Interest groups such as consumer or
trade associations
 Expert bodies
Public policy documented in…
Legislation: bills, statutes, regulations
Committee reports, proceedings, evidence
Record of debates (Hansard)
Case law
Annual reports & budgets for ministries,
government agencies
Position papers by ministries, NGOs, industry
associations, think tanks, etc.
Policy manuals
Legislation introduced
Debate in parliament at
2nd reading
Referred to committee
for study
3rd reading
Royal assent
In force
Specific aspects
1st reading bill
Hansard for record of
Committee report
3rd reading bill
Possible amendments
Annual statutes
Order in Council
Public policy research
Both primary & secondary sources are
important in understanding public policy
 Ask yourself:
• What’s the subject of the policy?
• What jurisdiction is responsible: federal,
provincial, municipal / local?
• Is the policy based on law or some other
• What documents express this policy?
Primary sources
Crucial in defining policy
 Primary public policy documents
produced and distributed by
government departments & agencies
 Documentary research into public policy
involves records of
• Intended policy
• Implementation & interpretation of policy
• Review of policy
Secondary sources
Provide background for in-depth analysis
Provide clues to help identify primary documents
• Monographs & research reports
• Academic journal articles
• News articles
• Reports from think tanks & policy institutes
• Position papers produced by interest groups
(industry, NGOs, consumers, professionals)
How to find policy sources?
Continue by searching for secondary
sources that discuss the policy issues
raised in the document
 Use these both for their content and
to identify leads to additional primary
sources for further research
How to find policy sources?
START by reading your policy document
Note significant groups, events and
documents, especially:
• Government (ministries, agencies,
• Interest groups, researchers, lobbyists
(witnesses, submissions)
• Legislation, law cases, policy papers
• Significant events and dates
Executive Branch – Types of policy documents
Position papers
 Program reports
 Studies
 Proposed budgets
 Task force & Royal Commission
 Annual reports & other
administrative materials
Finding Executive Branch documents
Search the top level web site at the appropriate
jurisdictional level, e.g. Government of Canada, to
identify key gov’t agencies concerned with this topic
Continue by searching/browsing web sites for these
specific ministries or government agencies
Use the Canadian Research Index to identify gov’t
reports and policy papers by topic
Look for references to gov’t bodies and specific policy
documents in academic literature and news articles
Legislative Branch - Types of policy documents
 Statutes
 Regulations,
 Record of debates (Hansard)
 Committee reports
 Minutes & proceedings of
committee meetings
Finding Legislative Branch documents
Pending legislation (bills) found on the
Parliamentary web site
Current statutes on the Dept of Justice web site
Search the text of the Debates of the House of
Commons in Hansard
Commons /Senate Committee reports via the
Parliamentary web site
Use secondary source (specialized encyclopedias,
indexes, articles) to find relevant legislation by
The Judiciary (law reports)
Law reports are published judicial decisions
e.g. CCH Canadian Ltd v. Law Society of Upper Canada
Use secondary sources specific to legal
materials to identify case reports by topic:
• The Canadian encyclopaedic digest, western,
• The Canadian Abridgement Digests
• Index to Canadian Legal Literature
You can also find references to case law in
academic literature and news articles
Interest Groups
Legislation & government policy is
influenced by consultation with
constituents / citizens and with
interest groups
 Interest groups may focus on a single
issue or represent a specific political
perspective on many issues
Interest Groups may represent:
Think tanks
Trade unions
Cultural perspectives
(language, religion)
Demographic perspectives
(disabilities, seniors,
Identifying Interest Groups
Start to identify stakeholders for
your policy issue by looking at list of
witnesses and submissions in your
policy document
 Supplement this with individuals or
groups named in secondary sources
(e.g. news) and on association web
 Check out the lobbyist registry
Identifying Interest Groups’ Positions
Go to the Parliamentary web site to
find Committee proceedings, minutes
and evidence
 Look for publications by or about
these groups on the web, such as:
• position papers
• listserv discussions
• letters to government
Use news sources to search for
articles that mention or quote them
Other national policy documents
Secondary sources can provide names of
specific documents or agencies
 Use article indexes, web searches
 Can search portal sites for specific
governments OR legislative or executive
branch web sites
 Government structures or their
approach to policy issue may differ
from Canada
Use the research guides and read your course
Take good notes as you go
Follow your leads
Talk to librarians (in person or via AskAway)
if you encounter difficulties
Citation guides for government documents at
the end of the guide
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