Saturday, April 25, 2009

New Database: CQ Congress Collection

Sawyer Library recently added another database to our collection of online resources from the CQ (Congressional Quarterly) Press. CQ Congress Collection is, as the name indicates, a group of descriptive and statistical materials supporting research related to the United States Congress.

CQ Press describes it in this way: "CQ Press Congress Collection presents a powerful research and reference tool that provides an analytical survey of the history and development; powers; personalities; current developments; and legislation considered and passed by the United States Congress. A wealth of data with nonbiased commentary is organized under four sections: Public Policy Legislation presents legislative information and analysis under 23 broad topics — such as agriculture, civil rights, national security, and transportation — and hundreds of subtopics. Members of Congress includes biographical, political, and electoral data about every member of Congress since the 79th Congress (additional Congresses will be added periodically). Floor Votes organizes, by Congress and topic, the preferred data for scholarly research. The Legislative Branch provides encyclopedic information, statistical data, legislative analysis, and Supreme Court case summaries relating to the structure and powers of Congress — including committee information — and its relationships with other branches of government and the media."

Although the interface is less than friendly, and linking between sections of the database can be painfully slow, this is indeed "a powerful research and reference tool" for political science research.

It is easy to get a basic profile of a member of Congress, like Barney Frank.

Then we can click various links, like the one for "Key Votes," and see his voting record.

Each of the vote titles is itself a link to further information on that piece of legislation.

You can even compare how members of Congress are rated by various special interest groups. Comparing Senator Ted Kennedy to Senator Mitch McConnell certainly allows for a vivid contrast. The ACU (American Conservative Union)--not to be confused with the ACLU, which has a much different viewpoint!--gives Senator McConnell a 92 rating, while the senior senator from Massachusetts receives an emphatic goose egg.

There's a lot of useful material here, even if it isn't always easy to find. Once you DO find it, you can export data as needed, or create a profile so that you can save your favorite documents and searches for further use.

We hope that those researching public policy and the legislative branch will find this a valuable resource. And don't forget our other useful CQ products, including CQ Researcher (great for Pro-Con analysis of hot button social issues) and CQ Press Political Reference Suite (which includes a wide assortment of online reference materials, from the Political Handbook of the World, to the excellent primary documents resource, the Historic Documents Series).

[FIND CQ Congress Collection on our "Databases by Subject" List in the "Social Sciences" category.]

Saturday, April 4, 2009

New Database: DemographicsNow

Sawyer Library recently added another valuable database called DemographicsNow. It allows you to build a demographic (that is, statistical characteristics of a specific population) report after setting your own criteria and stepping through a simple report-building process.

The resource self-describes itself in this way: "DemographicsNow is a comprehensive yet easy-to-use tool that provides highly sought after demographic data that allows prospective entrepreneurs, long-time business owners and students building marketing plans to collect, analyze and quickly act upon that data. With demographic information including income, housing, race, age, education, consumer expenditures and more, users have immediate access to untapped opportunities that can significantly enhance their current business intelligence."

Of course, it's not just business people that find demographic information useful. Many researchers in the social sciences will also find this a useful way to build a quick snapshot of social factors in a particular area!

You would first pick a geographic area--these include state, county, zip codes, and the like. Then you select specifics in your geographic category, then pick the types of statistics you want, or look for the grey tab that says "Report Packages" to choose a "Express Pack" report that covers topics like "Business Location" or Census or Population. You can even do comparisons or ranking reports, and produce maps. Once you build or open the report you want, it can be put into a Printable Version, a PDF Version, or an Excel Version which would allow you to manipulate the data further. (Just look for the buttons at the top of the screen.)

In some cases, you might wonder what some of the terms and statistical categories mean. Look for the "Help and Info" link in the upper left corner for tips and explanations. The glossary, for example, will help define things like a DMA. (A "Designated Market Area" as a "formal term for what is more commonly known as a TV or broadcast market....")

Gale/Cengage, the maker of our InfoTrac and GVRL databases, is the company releasing this Library Edition of DemographicsNow. If you are interested, they have a few informational web resources on the database. These include a PDF descriptive factsheet on the product, as well as a nice PowerPoint presentation that details features and techniques.

We hope you find this resource a useful one!

[FIND DemographicsNow on our "Databases by Subject" List in both the "Business and Management" category and the "Social Sciences" list.]