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POLI 304: Congress: Home

Course guide for POLI 304: Congress taught by Renee Van Vechten, Fall 2023


This guide has been created to help you get started researching your position paper for POLI 304.

It presents resources and strategies that will help you learn about your Representative and home district

Finding information on U.S. Representatives

Seal of the United States House of Representatives

Like any research assignment, your research for this class starts with a question: what do I need to know about my Representative and home district to be able to portray them accurately in the member profile and the in-class simulation?

Your assignment mentions specific kinds of information you need, including:

  1. Your member's personal background and professional experience, including leadership in Congress
  2. Attributes of your district, such as its population demographics, economy, and partisan voter registration and turnout
  3. Financial information about major donors and expenses such as staff salaries
  4. Ideological positioning as reflecting in voting history, endorsements from political groups, and the Lugar Bipartisanship Index.
  5. Issues that are important to your member and voters in your district, and your member's legislative "style"

Your task as a student researcher is to find sources, make sense of the information they contain, and develop an understanding of your member and district that will let you write the profile paper and role-play your Representative.

This guide is designed to introduce you to several categories of sources you'll find useful, including:

  • Government websites such as your member's official site and the House Clerk's website
  • Websites and subscription databases that recompile government information, such as:
    • Social Explorer (mapping Census Data)
    • Open Secrets (campaign finance data reported on
    • New York Times election results (gathered from election precints)
  • Your member's statements, documented on social and broadcast media like YouTube and C-SPAN
  • News articles found online and in subscription library databases like Nexis Uni or Access World News
  • Books and articles on your member, your district and important issues

Our example

Representative Pete Aguilar of California

Rep. Pete Aguilar of the California 33rd Congressional District (renumbered from the 31st in 2020) - University of Redlands' home district - is our example Representative for the sample searches throughout this guide.

Practice finding information on Rep. Aguilar so that you can apply similar strategies to learn about your member once you've received the assignment.

Learn more about research