Want to find local partners for a service project or gather "on the ground" information? The United Way has created directories of social service agencies for each state in the United States. Start here, then enter your state or location to find local offices and organizations you can contact for information or work with.
Finding information about local issues from local sources is often more difficult than finding information about issues from national and international sources! First, local sources are not as widely distributed as national or international, and second, your selection of search tools are more limited.
Academic Search Premier (ASP) is an index and database to a wide variety of magazines and journals. It covers all subject areas and provides lots of full text.
By tweaking your search you can find sources about local issues even though ASP's coverage is national and international in scope. Below is a screen clisp of an ASP search for local information. Note the second search box with "arizona" and the use of the drop-down menu to the right with the "Geographic Terms" field selected.
All of the retrieved articles will be about the illegal immigration debate in Arizona. BUT be prepared! Not all local issues will have the same amount of information in ASP.
News Databases and Indexes
News related databases and indexes are MUST use resources when doing research on local issues.
Full-text retrospective coverage of newspapers and news sources from around the world and the U.S. You can limit your searches to individual nations, U.S. states and even to individual local newspapers or news sources. Be prepared to sort through a lot of citations to find really relevant articles!
These two databases are complimentary and will provide you with unique sources not available anywhere else for local research. They are limited to coverage of North America, so may not work as well for international topics.
Ethnic NewsWatch covers hundreds of local newspapers and news outlets devoted to issues and news of interest to many of the different ethnic groups in the U.S. and Canada. For example, it covers most if not all of the major African-American, American Indian, Hispanic, and hundreds of other ethnic groups' newspapers and news outlets. Again, be very aware of the different political and cultural perspectives you will find in the sources you retrieve!
Alt-Press Watch covers the alternative newspapers and news outlets in the U.S. and Canada. Alternative newspapersusually devote themselves to covering news and issues from a particular political or cultural perspective outside of the "mainstream" press. Be very aware of the political or cultural perspective of each newspaper!
The Web is a good source for information about local issues, events and controversies. But when using Web sources be very selective and critically evaluate the source and the organization sponsoring it.
Strategies for Focusing Your Web Searches
To increase the degree of credibility and reliability of the sources you may find in an open Web search, one strategy is to limit your searches to particular producers of information on the Web by specifying the Domain type in your search.
For example, let's say you want to study and write about the issue of homeless veterans in Arizona and you want to find out what local governments (and maybe the federal government also) are doing to address the issue. You can enter the following Google search:
homeless veterans Arizona site:.gov
The ONLY Web sites and sources you will retrieve from the search above will be from governmental offices and organizations. State and local government offices and organizations can give you a wealth of information about how they are addressing and managing issues and problems at the local level.
To take the example further, this is the first entry in our search:
This is from the statewide Arizona Department of Veterans' Services and contains information about Arizona's efforts to address homelessness among veterans in Arizona. You can further refine your searches to specific locations within your state also, for example searching for "homeless veterans Maricopa County site:.gov."
Two other useful Domains or Sites to search on the Web are .org and .edu.
site:.org will return sites from organizations, which are often very good source of information on all kinds of issues. When using information from an organization make sure you identify:
The purpose of the organization (and a clear statement of the purpose);
The sponsors of the organization, for example a political party or trade group;
Who the officers of the organization are;
The sources of information they use in their reports and statements;
The tone and rhetoric the organization uses.
In your research report be prepared to tell your readers about the organization's political slant, or political or social purpose! It is important to YOUR credibility as a thoughtful and impartial researcher. For example, if citing and using a report from the American Civil Liberties Union (an obvious example for students in the U.S.), say something like, "According to a study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union, a leading liberal organization devoted to civil rights, ..."
site:.edu will return sites from educational institutions, mostly from colleges and universities but also from any educational level. Information from educational sites are generally reliable but not always, so make sure, for example, that you are not using another student's ENG 102 essay as a source in your research.
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