Government Documents and Information

Guide to Government Documents and Information

Thompson Library COVIT-19 Update

OSU Libraries are open.   Check to get the latest information on OSUL’s hours and COVID-19 related protocols.   Need assistance with Government Documents or if you have questions concerning Government information please contact Mary Ann Ries ( via email.  Office hours Monday thru Thursday 8 am-4 pm, and Friday afternoons by prior appointment only.

What Are Government Publications?


It is at times easier to say what is not a government document then what is.

One of the most inclusive definitions to date was advanced by York University Libraries.

Publications, regardless of physical form, issued or published by authority of a government body.  Specifically: those issued or published by the executive, legislative, and judicial functions of government at all levels - international, national, federal, local government bodies and intergovernmental bodies.

A government publication is defined in the U.S. Code (44 U.S.C. 1901) as "...informational matter which is published as an individual document at Government expense, or as required by law."

The face of government information is changing.  Once entirely tangible, in the last couple of years, it has become increasingly ephemeral as more and more government agencies publish electronically.  As the world of government publication evolves so will the definition.

Further Reading

Fundamentals of Government Information:  Mining, Finding, Evaluating, and Using Government Resources.  Eric J. Forte, Cassandra J. Hartnett, and Andrea L. Sevetson.  New York, New York:  Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2011.  Covers specific subject areas of government documents such as Health, Economic, Census, Legislation, etc.   

Government Information Tutorials - Introduction to Government Information Sources, Part 1:  What are Government Documents?   Lori L. Smith.  Southeastern Louisiana University. Sims Memorial Library.  Video tutorial to help locate government information in tangible publications and online sources. 

Guide to U.S. Government Publications.  Donna Androit.  McLean, Virginia:  Documents Index, 1973- .  Finding aid for identifying U.S. government series titles by agency or keyword. 

International Government Information and Country Information:  A Subject Guide.  Andrea M. Morrison and Barbara J. Mann.  Westport, Connecticut:  Greenwood Press, 2004. 

Introduction to E-Government.  OCLC WebJuction.    Guide to e-government resource geared to the novice researcher.

Introduction to United States Government Information Resources.   6th Edition.  Joe Morehead.  Englewood, Colorado:  Libraries Unlimited, 1999. Guide to general and specialized government information sources.  Somewhat dated. 

Research Guide - Government Document Resources. University of Houston. University of Houston Libraries.  Overview of Sudoc Classification, examples of document and citation types, etc.

Tapping the Government Grapevine the User Friendly Guide to U.S. Government Information Sources.  Judith Schiek Robinson.  3rd Edition.  Phoenix, Arizona:  Oryx Press, 1998.

United States Government Information:  Policies and Sources.   Peter Hernon, Harold C. Relyea, Robert E. Dugan, and Joan F. Cheverie.  Westport, Connecticut:  Libraries Unlimited, 2002. 

U.S. Government on the Web:  Getting the Information You Need.  Peter Hernon, Robert E. Dugan, and John A. Shuler.  Englewood, Colorado:  Libraries Unlimited, 1999. Guide to researching government sources.