Guide to Research

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Guide to Research

Familiarize yourself with the country that you are representing

Gaining a basic understanding of the social, economic, and political environment in your country will help you decide how your assigned country might debate and vote on a particular topic. The materials below can help you find this basic background information.

Since it is not always possible to gather sufficient information on a specific country solely from UN sources, the other materials described in this guide should be consulted. Sources such as newspapers, periodicals, and the translation services of the United States government will provide valuable information about countries around the world. If you have difficulty locating sufficient information on your particular country in the sources described here, it may be helpful to identify countries with similar domestic and foreign policies and to search for information on these countries. It is then possible to use this information to decide how your assigned country might debate and vote on a particular topic.


  • Europa World Year Book (J106 E85 latest in Gov Docs Reference; earlier in Green Stacks) is a particularly good source, providing an overview of the country's government, recent history, and economy as well as current statistical information. Find at: STROZIER LIBRARY reference section (basement).
  • United States Department of the Army Area Handbook Series provides an exhaustive source of background information on the social, cultural, historical, political and economic context in individual countries. Find at:
  • Google's Uncle Sam’s Site Search is a great index to all U.S. government sites and can provide quick access to U.S. Government resources via string search. Find at:

Gather Background Information on the United Nations Organization

Understanding how the UN is structured will help you understand its activities and what agency within the UN system is likely to work on the topic you are researching.

In addition to the main bodies of the UN (General Assembly, Security Council, etc.) there is a UN "system" agencies with special missions. There are subsidiary agencies with programmes that report directly to the Secretary General, such as UNICEF or the UN Development Programme. There are also specialized and autonomous agencies such as the World Health Organization or International Telecommunications Union that have their own governing structure.


  • About the UN -- An introduction to the structure and work of the United Nations. Select one of the links to the major bodies for additional detail. Includes an online tour. Find at:

Gather Background Information on the Assigned Issues

You need to research three aspects of your issue.

  • the overall parameters of the issue -- why does the UN feel a need to address the issue
  • what are current UN initiatives on this topic.
  • what are the opposing positions

The resources below will provide a broad overview of a wide range of issues discussed at the United Nations. Use the information you gleaned from studying the structure of the UN to determine which UN agency is most likely to work on your topic. In addition to providing a broad overview of UN activities these sources will provide citations to the working papers of the UN. These will provide a more in-depth analysis of topics.


  • The Yearbook of the United Nations which has been published since 1946 is an annual comprehensive review of UN activities. Provides references to UN documents, texts of resolutions adopted, and some voting histories. Find at: Reference Section Strozier Library, Basement
  • The UN Chronicle is a quarterly magazine containing a summary of the latest activities at the UN. Includes important resolutions, votes, and speeches. It is a useful source for up to date information. Find at: Reference Section Strozier Library, Basement
  • A Global Agenda: Issues before the […] Session of the General Assembly is an annual publication by the United Nations Association. It provides background information on the key issues to be addressed by the UN in the current session and includes references to major documents. While "Global Agenda" is not available on the web, background information from the UNA is available at the United Nations Association web site. Find at: Reference Section Strozier Library, Basement
  • The Annotated Preliminary List of Items to be Included in the Provisional Agenda of the Regular Session of the General Assembly, is an annual General Assembly document providing an introduction to each item on the session agenda. It is more detailed than “A Global Agenda”. It also includes background information and citations to documents and reports related to each agenda item. Find at: Reference Section Strozier Library, Basement
  • UN microfiche collection. The UN call number is often (though not always) A/session number/50 e.g. A/53/50 for the list from the 53rd session in 1997. Ask at the Reference Section in Strozier Library, Basement Service Desk for assistance
  • An abbreviated version is available at the UN gopher site. These online versions lack much of the detail available in the printed version.A/51/50--51st Session Agenda (1996), A/52/50 --52nd Session (1997), and A/53/50--53rd Session (1998) at the UN's gopher site {see below}.

Review Speeches at the UN by the Country's Representatives

Speeches and statements in discussions and in meetings of the principal organs of the United Nations (General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, Security Council, Trusteeship Council) -- and their subsidiary standing and ad hoc committees -- are key sources for establishing the international policy position of UN member nations.


  • U.N. Website also has many speeches and additional resources regarding a countries policy. Find at:
  • AccessUN is an index to the plenary and committee documents from the principle UN bodies, such as the General Assembly or Security Council. Find at: (via-FSU Library’s connection or proxy server)

Search Hints

  • To find speeches by a specific country
    • Search by Author using either or the country name or representative's name.
    • Searching by country name is usually preferable, since the ambassador or another representative may speak for the country. However, this will also pull up letters that have been submitted by the country.
    • You can also add an additional keyword or two on the subject to narrow your search if necessary.
  • To find speeches on a topic
    • try a few key words searching in all fields
    • limit your search to masthead documents and official records
    • examine a few of the citations you retrieve and look at the subjects listed in the record.
    • go back and revise your search based on the subject headings used.

Review Policy Statements from the Country's Political Leadership

There are other useful sources for locating official statements of policy from foreign countries. Perhaps most important are letters written by heads of state and foreign ministers to the Secretary-General on issues of mutual interest. To find references to these letters, search the web-based AccessUN database, inserting the country name into the "country" field.

A popular source for finding statements of official national policy is the Foreign Broadcast Information Service Daily Reports series which includes English-language translations of foreign news broadcasts, press releases, newspaper articles, including official government statements. The FBIS Daily Reports CD-ROM is accessible at the Government Documents International/Foreign CD-ROM Workstation. World News Connection is a web-based version of a subset of the sources covered by the FBIS cdrom. World News Connection is available via the FSU network and in FSU libraries.

The British Broadcasting Corporation provides translations in English of news reports worldwide, including statements of government officials. These BBC Monitoring International Reports (1996- ) are available online via Global Newsbank, a web-based subscription service available to members of the FSU community.


  • The databases and resource information listed above can be accessed via-FSU Library’s connection or proxy server. An alphabetical listing of the databases can be found at the following URL. Find at:

Study the Texts of Resolutions Sponsored by the Country

The decisions made by the principle UN bodies (General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, and Security Council) are called resolutions. While not "legally" binding for member states, resolutions express the collective view of member states on a particular issue and therefore carry the weight of global opinion. Much like legislation in the US congress, the procedure for passing a resolution in the General Assembly is a multi step process. Resolutions are available in print and electronic form.


  • General Assembly -- Electronic access is available in a number of places.
    • AccessUN provides full text of Security Council Resolutions from 1974 and General Assembly since 1983. Find at:
    • Hint: you need to search for 3 key "words"
      • Resolution (in Title)
      • your subject (in Subject)
      • A/res/ S/res/ or & nbsp E/Res (in Document Number)
    • United Nations Gopher provides access to an increasing volume of UN documentation. It currently has: Security Council resolutions from 1974-1995, Economic and Social Council 1982-1993, and General Assembly resolutions from 1982-1995; 51st session, 1996; 52nd Session, 1997. and a list from the A list from the 53rd session with some full text. Find at: gopher://
    • Older resolutions can be found in the reference section of the Strozier Library (basement).

Examine the voting record of your country

The majority of resolutions are adopted without a vote. If a vote is taken you may get a summary of the vote (the number of yeas and nays) or the resolution may be adopted with a "recorded" or roll call vote. Only the recorded votes will give any indication of how a country voted on a particular resolution.


At this point in time there are few online sources for voting records. The following are print sources are the easiest way to locate voting records on UN member countries:

  • The Advance text of Resolutions and Decisions adopted by the General Assembly is a UN Press Release that lists and indexes General Assembly resolutions adopted during the first part of each session. This volume also contains the voting records for resolutions where roll call votes were taken
    • Call no: Doc Intl UN/A/Adv.Text./ -- Find at: Reference Section Strozier Library, Basement
  • Official Records and PV Records Series Voting records are issued as an annual supplement to each session's Official Records
  • Available in the reference section of the Strozier Library (basement), ask for assistance at the service desk.

Additional Research Resources

International Peace and Security

International Law

Economic and Social Development

Environment / Sustainable Development / Population=


Think Tanks

Regional Commissions and Organizations

Health / Education / Food Security