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Notes about searching
Challenges exist in searching for government information. Due to the Clinton-era decision to increase the public's access to federal information via electronic means, many agencies have stopped publishing paper documents, with inconsistent access tools and lack of guidelines as to what should be accessible and by what means.
Searching becomes more challenging as some agencies publish on their own servers (generally, the .org domain) rather than on government servers (.gov is in the domain name.) The military branches use .mil in their domain names.
Materials can be in HTML, PDF or DOC formats and sometimes require special software to open or run. A few government sources are password-protected, such as STAT-USA.
The following are tips and search tools to try. Please contact the librarian for help with your research needs.
- Select the appropriate search engine. If you are looking for materials published pre-1970, be aware few materials have been digitized prior to this date and frequently are not held in government web sites. They may be found at selective or regional depositories in print.
- Use the correct terminology for the time period. An example of terminology change is that used for Americans of African descent. The original term was Negroes changing to Afro-Americans, African-Americans and Blacks over time.
Search engine for US government sites, including .mil sites, but does not include print resources records that may be found in GPO Access.
USA.gov Mobile Apps
Downloadable mobile applications for health, economics, military, veterans, product recalls, travel, and more.
Courtesy of Washburn University School of Law. A web page for Federal Agencies that provides links to the agencies' homepage, publications, organizational charts, electronic forms and administrative decisions. Often this information can only be found by digging deep into an agency site.
Catalog of U.S. Government Publications
The electronic version of the discontinued Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications, this site provides additional information such as locations of depository libraries as well as searching federal government materials published since July 1976. Earlier print-only materials should be searched through the print Monthly Catalog.
Google's Government Search
The feeds on the home page are designed for use by government employees, but can be customized and the search tools are for anyone looking for government information from servers using the .gov (federal), .mil (military), and state servers (ending with .us or .gov) and related sites such as Findlaw.com. If you are looking to limit your search to a particular state, use the Google Gov't State Search engine at Research Buzz. To limit only to federal sites, use USA.gov as described above.
Commercial-provided directory that provides access to all levels of world, federal, state and local government. Includes links to consumer information sites, public opinion polls, election information, and more.
Infomine (Government Information)
University of California Riverside's Government Information Web Page for searching the UCR collections and resources.
Search by either region/state or subject to locate statistical information harvested from a variety of Federal agencies.
FDSYS (formerly GPO Access)
The GPO (Government Printing Office) has the responsibility to publish and distribute all Federal government publications. This is not always the reality, as agencies do not always choose to publish with the office, but this search engine provides fairly extensive access to print records and is now adding web sites. There are different 'libraries' and information may be in several of them, so be sure to search all possibilities.
Library of Congress' THOMAS
Search engine provided by the Library of Congress to bills, laws, Congressional hearings, and more published since 1976. You need to know in which Congress your material is likely to have occurred to start your search. The law's identification number is coded with that information.
ERIC (Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse)
A variety of materials (published and non-published grey literature) starting with 1966 on instruction, pedagogy, classroom management, student learning and much more.
Produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis to provide access to digitized print and data for economics researchers. This can be used in conjunction with FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data) for current and historical data.
FOIA (Freedom of Information Act)
Each agency has its own process and forms for FOIA requests. Here are some agencies' links:
- Central Intelligence Agency and a page of a limited number of other FOIA links
- Department of Justice
- Department of State
- Federal Bureau of Investigation and the FBI Reading Room which contains a number of digital documents from previous requests.
- National Institute of Science and Technology
- White House
Lexis Nexis Academic
Click on the LEGAL RESEARCH link to search for Federal and State law and legislative histories.
U.S. Congressional Serial Set / American State Papers / Serial Set Maps provide full text documents of Congressional business and more from 1789 through 1980. May be searched separately or in a group.
USA Trade Online
Site provides specific U.S. export and import information on more than 18,000 commodities world wide.