The discourse on affirmative action has its own vocabulary and key “signposts,” some of them used or referenced by everyone, and some with ideological valence. In this section, we lay out some basic resources that will be useful even to veteran observers.

The Timeline summarizes the major milestones in the use of affirmative action in the government and higher-education sectors.

What Affirmative Action Does tries to explain the evolving nature of the meaning of affirmative action, the contours of the controversy over its meaning, and the meaning of “diversity,” which is a key rationale for affirmative action policies.

Our Terminology section explains key terms and phrases that crop up frequently in discussions of affirmative action and preferences.

In the Legal Process, we discuss both how litigation in this area works and where one can find court opinions. In one subsection of this, Key Legal Constraints, we summarize the principal limitations that courts have placed on the ability of public and private institutions to use preferences or discriminate based on race or gender.

The section on The Supreme Court and Racial Preferences: A Chronological Digest, in turn, lists and summarizes the decisions of the United State Supreme Court in these matters.