The Ohio State Universities | University Libraries | Resource Guides

Government Publications

Quick Links

Start with these:

See Government Documents and Information:  Finding Government Information - Federal Resources for a complete listing of OSUL's federal government resources. 

Start with these: 

See Government Documents and Information:  Finding Government Information - State Resources for a complete listing of OSUL's state government resources. 

Listed below are some resources to aid in locating international government publications which include documents and information from individual foreign governments, as well as treaty organizations such as the European Union or the United Nations.  

See Government Documents and Information:  Finding Government Information - International Resources for a complete listings of OSU's resources pertaining to foreign governments and international treaty organizations.

Free Tutorials

In the News

Presidential Investigations

Mueller Report

The newly released Justice Department report on the Mueller investigation Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election that is in the news.

 

Watergate Road Map

Officially titled Grand Jury Report and Recommendation Concerning Transmission of Evidence to the House of Representatives contains documents and evidence collected by the Special Prosecutor surrounding the Watergate Break In which led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

 

The Star Report

Officially titled Preliminary Memorandum of the President of the United States Concerning Referral of the Office of the Independent Counsel and Initial Response of the President of the United States to Referral of the Office of the Independent Counsel, contains information gathered by  Independent Council Kenneth Starr which laid the ground work for the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton.

 

Finding Government Publications

The key to any research is determining who the ‘players’ are - the people, institutions, agencies, departments, etc. that have an interest in the topic, determining what information they generate or collect, and finally how they disseminate information. This is especially tricky with government publications.

The sheer volume of material produced by an ever changing cast of players makes finding a specific piece of data akin to finding a needle in a hay stack.

Take a moment and think about the information you are trying to locate.

  • Identify the key players. Who are the regulators, the interested parties such as lobby groups, etc., or neutrals such as newspapers, etc. that might have been or could be involved?
  • Identify the type of information. Is it statistical such as population counts or a law or a treaty or a study or something else?
  • Identify a time frame. Is it current, 20 years ago, or some other date?
  • Identify a geographical location. Is it local, state, country specific?

Once you have determined these four elements, it is time to start your research. While doing an internet search is a good starting point, it is not in and of itself the only way to identify government information, and at times might not even be the best way.

Some resources you can use to find government publications are:

  1. Check general purpose and subject specific indices and databases, or newspaper indices;
  2. Look at government websites such as FDsys;
  3. Search OSUL or other libraries' catalogs;
  4. Use finding aids and resources listed on subject specific web pages such as Treaties, Census, etc. under Government Documents and Information.
  5. Consult with Subject Librarians at OSUL.

Most of all be flexible. Be a detective. Terminology, finding aids, etc. change over time.

Start by

  • Determining the desired Census year(s).
  • Determining the variables needed. 
  • Determining the Census geography required.  

Based on the above select the appropriate resource.  Not all data is available for all geographic levels and depending on the geography the data may not be in English. The larger the geographic level, the more likely data is available.   

Start with these:

United States Resources:

International Resources:

See Government Documents and Information:  Finding Government Information - Census and Other Statistical Resources for a further listing of OSUL’s statistic and census resources.

How an idea becomes a law varies state to state, country to country. Only after it has undergone study, debate, and a consensus is reached does it become a law. The entire process is deliberately convoluted and lengthy. Very few ideas ever become law. 

The amount of background information and documentation available for any given law varies law to law, state to state, country to country.

Start with these:

Federal Resources:

  • CONGRESS.GOV. (The Library of Congress) 93rd Congress (1973/74)-present. Contains information on Roll Call Votes, Bill Status, Floor Activities, Committee Reports, etc. Updated daily when congress is in session.  [Revised edition of the Library of Congress’ THOMAS.gov]
  • Congressional Record:  Proceedings and Debates of the Congress. Permanent Edition.  United States Congress. Washington, D.C.:  Government Printing Office, 1874-. Information on introduced bills, debates, amendments, votes, etc. (Since 1874, includes the History of Bills as part of the Congressional Record Index).
  • Federal Legislative History Research:  Introduction. (Indiana University – Bloomington. Maurer School of Law)  Overview of how laws are enacted, with tutorials, etc.
  • govinfo. Contains official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government.  Links to the Budget of the United States, the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, congressional documents, laws, United States Courts Opinions, etc. Coverage varies. (Formerly called FDsys).

 

Ohio Resources:

 

State Resources:

 

International Resources:

  • International Law:  A Guide to Resources for the Study of International Law. (Penn State University Libraries) Guide to International Law resources.
  • United Nations. Official website of the United Nations
  • Web Sites of National Parliaments. Links to the websites of those countries that have a national parliament. 

 

Other Resources:

  • Space Law. (United Nations) Treaties, resolutions, agreements, etc. pertaining to outer space.

 

See Government Documents and Information – Laws and Legislation, Treaties, and Budget and Appropriations for a further listing of OSUL’s legal research resources.

Treaties are formal agreements between two or more nations concerning peace, trade, etc. In the United States a treaty can only be executed by the Federal Government. While negotiated by the executive branch, it must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. The Senate does not ratify treaties - it only okays the U.S.'s participation.  A treaty is ratified when all parties involved exchange instruments of ratification with each other.

Besides treaties, the federal government can and does enter into other types of international agreements, collectively called executive agreements.  Because of the sharp increase in business being conducted between the U.S. and the rest of the world, Presidents have increasingly been entering into these types of agreements with leaders of other countries, especially in areas of foreign aid, agriculture, and trade.  

There are many resources available for researching treaties and agreements.  Before starting your research, Duke University Law Library recommends that you ask yourself the following questions:

Is the United States a signatory to the treaty?

Are there only two signatories to the treaty (bilateral treaty) or are there more than two (multilateral treaty)?

Is the treaty still in force?

Has the treaty been amended?

How you answered the above questions, will affect how you structure your search. 

Some resources to help you with your search:

Check out OSU’s catalog or see Government Documents and Information:  Finding Government Information - Treaties for a further listing of OSUL’s treaty research resources.

Not only do government agencies produce statistical data and legislation, they also engage in and fund original research.  Published as reports, studies, conference proceedings, etc., these technical reports are sometimes referred to as “grey literature.”  Library repositories and others are working to preserve and make these publications available digitally, but even with these efforts locating documents pertaining to government research can be difficult.

Grey literature and peer reviewed are not the same.  Because grey literature generally is not subjected to the lengthy review processes that peer reviewed literature under goes, its quality can vary widely depending on the source.  Data and research reported in grey literature is not necessarily bad research, just because it has not published in a peer reviewed journal.  It can provide unique and critically needed resources in areas of emerging technologies and niche research that peer reviewed literature cannot.

When searching grey literature, University of New Mexico. Health Sciences Library and Information Center offers these search tips:

  • Start broad, then narrow your focus as appropriate.
  • Try limiting your search to domains ending in .org or.gov.
  • Try limiting your search to [PDF] format, conference proceedings, or dissertations
  • Ask"Who Care?"

Once you have located your documents.  Harvard Kennedy School recommends that each piece be subjected to the C.R.A.A.P. test to evaluate its Currency, Relevancy, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose.  Royal Roads University of offers a slightly different assessment tool, which is designed to lead you through the assessment process via a series of questions.

Resources:

  • Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.  Finding tool for federal publications that includes descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to those that are available online. Users can search by authoring agency, title, subject, and general key word, or click on "Advanced Search" for more options.Very slow to load. 
  • CONGRESS.GOV.  The official source for federal legislative information. It replaces the nearly 20-year-old THOMAS.gov site with a system that includes platform mobility, comprehensive information retrieval and user-friendly presentation.
  • CyberCemetary.  Provides permanent public access to the Web sites and publications of defunct U.S. government agencies and commissions. Very useful when presidential administrations change.A partnership between the University of North Texas Libraries and GPO.
  • Documents and Publications – Reports, Studies and Booklets. Online library and bookshop of publications from the institutions and other bodies of the European Union.Searchable by topic, institution, etc.
  • WorldWideScience.org. Global science gateway comprised of national and international scientific databases and portals.

The above was compiled from lists provided by Oregon State University Libraries, North Carolina State University, University of Washington Libraries, and others.  An expanded resource list is available at Government Research Resources

Further Reading:

Grey Literature. (University of Michigan Library) Although geared towards the health sciences, provides information on other general resources and information on how to search for “grey literature” especially using Google. 

Grey Literature 101:  Introduction. (University of New Mexico) Gives background information on the topic, search strategies, and lists of resources.

Grey Literature:  What is it?. (Royal Roads University) Offers a summary of the pros and cons of grey literature, etc.

Need Help with Government Documents or Information?

Profile Photo
Mary Ries
Contact:
Microforms and Government Information
Thompson Library room 211
The Ohio State University
1858 Neil Avenue Mall
Columbus, Ohio 43210-1285
(614) 688-8770

Hot Topics

The following links are to government, academic, consumer-oriented, etc. sites of interest. Here are a few highlights:

  • Surviving an Active Shooter Event.  Video developed by OSU Police with strategies for surviving an active shooter incident, also includes links to other videos on the topic.
  • Plagiarism: What It is and How to Recognize and Avoid It. (Indiana University. Writing Tutorial Services)
  • Preventing Sexual Assault on Campus. (Best Colleges.com) Provides links to reports and resources on the topic of sexual assault and abusive partner relationships, tips on assault prevention, steps to take if assaulted, etc.  
  • Stop Think Connect Resource Guide. (Department of Homeland Security/National Cyber Security Alliance) Links to videos, websites, etc. on cybersecurity topic such as smart phone security, identity theft, file sharing, social networking, etc.

For a complete listing of topics and sites see Government Documents and Information - Hot Topics A- L and/or Hot Topics M-Z. Inclusion in Hot Topics does not mean that OSUL or The Ohio State University endorse the site, or its contents.

Did This Guide Help?

Please let us know if you found the information you needed:
Yes: 5 votes (29.41%)
No: 12 votes (70.59%)
Total Votes: 17

We'd like to know what you think. If you have any feedback, comments or problems with this page, email libref@osu.edu and let us know.