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Policy: Step 1: Locate a bill.

This guide will help you research legislation at the state and federal levels. This guide is designed specifically for SWK3150 and SWK6140. Updated Fall 2015.

Different Ways to Choose a Bill




Through, the Library of Congress makes federal legislative information freely available to the public. It includes information on bills and resolutions, complete summaries of the day's activities in both chambers of Congress (the Congressional Record), committee information, roll call votes, and much more. replaced THOMAS ( in November of 2013.

To search current legislation, enter a search term. Refine search results with the facets in the left-hand column. Results can be limited to:

  • Congress: Specific sessions of Congress (back to 1974). In most cases, use the current session.
  • Bill Type: Choose "Bills (H.R. or S.)." You do NOT want to choose a resolution.
  • Status of Legislation: Consider choosing "Passed One Chamber" or at least "Committee Consideration." Advanced search now allows you search on one or multiple "major actions."
  • Subject--Policy Area: Legislative analysts closely examine each bill and resolution to assign a primary subject term (there are 33) that best describes the entire measure. Consider looking at "Social Welfare" or other subjects.
  • You may also refine search by Sponsor (representative or senator), committee, party, etc.
Click on a bill number to get more information: 
  • Summary from the Congressional Research Service (CRS)
  • Text of the legislation
  • Actions (major, all, or all including floor amendments)
  • Titles (helpful when doing further research)
  • Amendments
  • Cosponsors
  • Committees
  • Related Bills
  • Subject areas (There are approximately 1,000 issue-oriented, entity, and geographic terms.)

For further assistance, see

STATE (Illinois)

The Legislative Information System in Springfield maintains the Illinois General Assembly (ILGA) website. Here you can find information on bills and resolutions, transcripts of each legislative day in both the House and Senate, committee information, legislative reports, and a glossary.

  • Search the current General Assembly by bill number or keyword.
  • Browse bills chronologically by introduction (click on "Bills & Resolutions).
  • Previous General Assemblies (back to 1971)  Note: The content available for previous General Assemblies varies; the earlier the GA, the less information that is available in a usable electronic format. When a previous GA is selected, a menu will be presented showing the content available for that particular GA.
  • To look for bills by a particular legislator, put the name in the keyword search,
  • To look for bills at a particular stage of the legislative process, click on "Legislative Reports"

Clicking on a bill number gives you the complete text of a bill. Clicking on "Bill Status" gives the following information (when available):

  • The full text of the legislation
  • Votes
  • All action and last action
  • Short description
  • Sponsors and cosponsors
  • Synopsis
  • Amendments

STATE (Wisconsin)

The Wisconsin State Legislature website has links for both the Senate and Assembly, searching for bills, Joint Committees, finding representatives, and more.

Search in the Legislative Documents for Bills:

  • By keyword
  • Legislator
  • Browse the subject index
  • Browse the author index

The site has an FAQ which provides a great guide for using and searching the site for Bills and other information.

OpenCongress brings together official government data with news and blog coverage to give you the real story behind each bill.

  • Click on the "Bills" tab to find "Hot Bills on OC" or "Major Bills by Issue Area."
  • Search by keyword at homepage or use Advanced Search for more options.
  • Recent news and blog coverage links to newspaper articles and blogposts about a bill (currently disabled).
  • Subscribe to RSS feeds or email alerts to automatically receive updates on bills, votes, issues, and more. is a collection of tools that make it possible for citizens to track what is happening in their state's capitol by aggregating information from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. is a tool by Civic Impulse, LLC, is one of the worldʼs most visited government transparency websites. The site helps ordinary citizens find and track bills in the U.S. Congress and understand their representatives’ legislative record.


Advocacy groups, issue organizations, and lobbyists use various forms of advocacy to influence public opinion or policy on issues that are important to them. Many of these organizations have "advocacy alerts" or "legislative updates" sections on their websites to keep their members informed about legislation that is important to them and to those for whom they advocate. Consulting these parts of their websites can be a good way to find bills that are relevant and being discussed.


Who Created This Research Guide?

Watch "I'm Just a Bill" from Schoolhouse Rock!

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