Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice
The library faculty has created this page to assist you on your research project. The resources on this page should help you whether you're writing the paper, recording the podcast, or filming the documentary.
If you are choosing the Podcast or Documentary option instead of the Paper option, you will also want to refer to this page for additional resources just for you.
Some suggestions before we get started:
1) Take time to generate keywords for your research. We recommend this resource as a good one to use to collect keywords that you can plug into the databases.
2) Take the time to read various sources BEFORE you generate your opinion or thesis. This will allow you to build a more nuanced, thoughtful argument.
3) No one site is going to have everything you need. You will have to synthesize information from experts, government sites, and databases.
4) While experts are important, don't rely solely on them to build your argument. Make sure you are including actual data (statistics from academic and government research, for example) in your argument.
5) You must use one or more primary sources. A primary source is firsthand evidence about an idea or issue. These are examples of primary sources: eyewitness accounts, legal documents and laws, statistical data, interviews, speeches, and empirical studies. Secondary sources differ from primary sources in that they talk about (analyze, interpret, summarize, critique, synthesize, etc) primary sources.
SOURCES TO GET STARTED: These are good places to go to get the basic information about your topic.
SIRS: SIRS is a good place to go if you are examining a topic around which there is a national debate (in other words, it won't have something for everyone). It provides opinion on both sides of the debate as well as other forms or related information. It will give you a good background of the debate, but it will not have the primary sources or deep expert analysis you will need as you examine your issue fully. Browse the topics to see if there is one related to your constitutional or criminal justice related issue. (Click HERE to login for passwords if you are working off campus.)
EBSCO: EBSCO goes a level deeper than SIRS. You will need to use advanced search with your keywords and use the limiters on the left of the search results to get the types of results you need. (Click HERE to login for passwords if you are working off campus.)
JSTOR: JSTOR is the deepest database of all of our databases. You will need to use the Advanced Search feature with your keywords, time period limiters, and others that apply in order to find results efficiently. (Click HERE to login for passwords.)
SOURCES BEYOND DATABASES: These sites require time to search through, but from them, you will get high quality results. You should rely heavily on results from these sources and sources similar to these.
Congress.gov: This site provides links to bills, current legislative actions in the House and Senate, and reports on the legislative record. See if you can find a helpful link on the landing page before you run a search.
The US Government's Constitution of the United States Analysis and Intepretation: Scroll down to find the amendment that applies to your research. Click on the PDF that applies. Use the first page index to help you find analysis related to your issue. This is meaty stuff, and will take time and focus to read, but this is what years of government debate over constitutional issues have produced, and it is thoughtful and will be helpful for you as you develop your own opinions.
American Bar Association: Use this page to search for what the American Bar Association says about your issue and related issues. It is a source of expert legal analysis. Use the search box for your issue, then in the results, click under americanbar.org under Collection to make sure you're getting articles and analysis.
Library of Congress's Law Library: Use the search box for your issue. When you get to the results, choose United States as the Location and whatever other limiters on the left-hand side to help you narrow your focus. When you click on a result, see it may bring you to a book. Don't assume that you don't have access to the book. Many of the results have an online link you can follow if you search around the page.
National Conference of State Legislatures Civil and Criminal Justice Page: Use this whole page to help you find what you're looking for. Notice the subject links under the drop down under Civil and Criminal Justice. Notice also the Hot Topics link and other links on the main page. If you search around on this site, you'll likely find reports, analysis, and laws related to your criminal justice area of focus.
FORMATTING YOUR PAPER TO MLA 9:
Purdue OWL MLA Formatting and Style Guide: This site has the rules for everything you need to know about MLA. It also has a model paper to show you exactly what an MLA formatted paper should look like, including a Works Cited.
We like Zotero Bib, a free Works Cited entry generator (much better and cleaner than EZ Bib or Citation Machine). If the autogenerator doesn't work for you by URL or ISBN, choose manual entry and the document type, then plug in information as needed.
We recommend using the tools at OWL or the MLA style guide to lead you as you format your Works Cited.
Questions? Need help? Feel free to use the LiveChat box to the left any time Monday through Friday, 8am-4pm. Or, email us at SI_librarians@siprep.org. Helping you learn how to dig deep into information, read it critically, and synthesize it into your own argument gives us great pleasure.