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Legal Databases How-to Search: ProQuest Congressional

Search tips and techniques for LexisNexis Academic, Westlaw, HeinOnline, and ProQuest Congressional

Introduction

ProQuest Congressional contains the following documents. Not all are available in full-text. NOTE: To learn what each of these documents is and contains, in ProQuest Congressional, click "Advanced Search" then the "i" next to each type of document.

  • Committee Hearings (1824-present; full-text only up to 2004)
  • Committee Prints (1830-present)
  • Congressional Record (1789-1997)
  • Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports (1916-present)
  • House and Senate Documents (1817-present)
  • House and Senate Reports (1817-present)
  • Legislative Histories (1969-present) (see box to the right for search information)
  • Serial Set Maps (1789-1979)
  • Serial Set (1789-1979)

Find a Document

Regardless of the subject/document search you are performing, ProQuest Congressional offers three basic ways to search: Basic Search; Advanced Search; Search by Number. All three are covered below.

Basic Search

Use this form to retrieve congressional materials and legislative histories by searching abstracts, titles, indexing information and other bibliographic data.

  • By default, you start on the "Basic Search" box. But if you are not, click the "Basic Search" tab at the top of the main ProQuest Congressional page. If you don't see this option, make sure you have clicked "Congressional Publications" in the left-hand column. This is the default when you enter ProQuest Congressional but if you have moved away from this tab you need to click it in order to see this search option.
  • Enter your search terms
  • For more accurate results, try adding in Index Terms. You can find Index Terms on your topic by clicking the "Index Terms" link below the search box.
  • If you can narrow the date, do so, to avoid retrieving irrelevant results.
  • Or, if you know the Congress, select it. (You cannot choose both a date and a Congress.)
  • Click Search

Advanced Search

Advanced Searching is more specific than the Basic Search option and allows you to add more search terms as well as narrow the search to a particular set of documents (e.g., Committee Prints, Hearings, etc...)

  • Click the "Advanced Search" tab at the top of the main ProQuest Congressional page. If you don't see this option, make sure you have clicked "Congressional Publications" in the left-hand column. This is the default when you enter ProQuest Congressional but if you have moved away from this tab you need to click it in order to see this search option.
  • Enter your search terms
  • For more accurate results, try adding in Index Terms. You can find Index Terms on your topic by clicking the "Index Terms" link below the search box.
  • Choose one or more of the document types to narrow your search. (Click the "i" next to the name to learn more about a type of document.
  • If you can narrow the date, do so, to avoid retrieving irrelevant results.
  • Or, if you know the Congress, select it. (You cannot choose both a date and a Congress.)
  • Click Search

Search by Number

The Search by Number option is useful if you have a citation. You can search for: congressional publications by number; congressional publications related to a bill or law; legislative history by number; bound Congressional Record by citation or date.

  • Click the "Search by Number" tab at the top of the main ProQuest Congressional page. If you don't see this option, make sure you have clicked "Congressional Publications" in the left-hand column. This is the default when you enter ProQuest Congressional but if you have moved away from this tab you need to click it in order to see this search option.
  • Choose the type of document you want to search.
  • Enter the exact citation via a combination of the drop-down boxes and the open fields.
  • Click Search

Search Techniques

ProQuest Congressional allows similar searching as other databases. Here are some of the common Boolean operators and truncation available in PQ Congressional.

  • Boolean operators - AND, OR, AND NOT - are not case sensitive
  • Exclamation mark (!) finds a root word plus all the terms made by adding letters to the end of it. (e.g., legis! finds legislative, legislation, legislator, and legislate.)
  • An asterisk (*) holds one space for a character at any point in a word. (e.g., bernst**n finds the "ei" and the "ie" spelling of the name; wom*n finds woman and women). NOTE: You cannot use a wildcard character (*) at the beginning of a search word.
  • Proximity locator W/N finds search terms within N (a number up to 255) words (e.g., Bell w/3 company w/10 telephone).
  • Use w/p and w/s to find documents with those terms either within the same paragraph or within the same sentence. NOTE: You cannot use the W/p or W/s connectors with a proximity connector like W/n.
  • PRE/n finds documents in which the first search word precedes the second by not more than the stated number of words. N may be any number up to 255.

For more detailed information see the links below from the ProQuest Congressional wiki.

Find a Legislative History

There are three ways to locate the legislative history of a law in ProQuest Congressional. They are discussed below.

NOTE: You can also track bills as you would legislative histories. To track bills, simply choose the "Bill Tracking" option when doing options 2 or 3 below.

  1. Do a Basic Search (see box to the left to see how to perform this search). NOTE: This type of search brings up Legislative Histories but also other types of documents. To focus specifically on legislative histories, see numbers 2 and 3 below.
  2. Do an Advanced Search
    • Do this search if you are looking for legislative histories on a particular subject or if you only know the popular name or topic of a law and do not know the citation
    • From the main ProQuest Congressional page, click "Advanced Search" in the left-hand column under "Congressional Publications"
    • Enter your search terms (either keywords, Subject Terms, or the Popular Name of a bill)
    • Restrict by words in title if your search terms are too broad
    • Uncheck all the boxes in the Limit To section except "Legislative Histories"
    • If you know the Congress, enter it as it will greatly reduce your search results
    • Click Search
  3. Do a Citation Search
    • If you have a known citation for a bill, this is the quickest way to retrieve the legislative history
    • From the main ProQuest Congressional page, click "Search by Number" in the left-hand column under "Congressional Publications"
    • Enter either the citation (e.g., Public Law Number, the Statute at Large citation, etc...)
    • Click Search
    • If the citation has a legislative history, it will be listed in the options in the lower right-hand column of the search results page.