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U.S. Federal Documents

References: U.S. Federal | Area Federal Depository Libraries | Census Basics: Demographic 10 Year Censuses | Congressional Information | Congressional Information Internet Sites | Continental Congress Documents | FBI Files On Microfilm | National Security Archive Collections | Presidential Administration Dates and Parties | Presidential Libraries Internet Addresses | Presidential Papers | Presidential Papers on Microfilm | Public Policy Research Using Government Information| Regional Federal Depository Libraries | U.S. Government Archival Resources | U.S. Censuses and Surveys | U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Records on Microfilm | U.S. Statistics

Public Policy Research Using Government Information

Guide to Government Publications Series


Legislative Publications
Committee and Subcommittee Hearings
Committee Prints
Committee Reports & Documents
American State Papers
Debates & Proceedings
Laws, Codes, Regulations
United States Statutes
United States Code
Federal Register
Code of Federal Regulations
Congressional Support Agencies
Congressional Budget Office
Congressional Research Service
General Accounting Office
Technology Assessment Office
Presidential Documents
Selected Secondary Sources
Selected Directories

Public policy research using government documents/publications involves information prepared by the legislative and executive branches. If there have been court decisions, these documents may also be of value. An understanding of government agency responsibilities, the information creation process, and methods of distribution are all helpful.

The legislative process by which bills/resolutions are introduced, hearings are held, reports are written, and votes are counted creates huge amounts of information for the legislation passed and not passed within a particular congress.

In conducting public policy research using government information, there is no one place to begin. Starting points can vary with the information already known and with what is needed. Secondary sources and government documents like the congressional committee hearings and prints are useful sources for identifying simple information such as a date, bill/resolution number, or public law number. Congressional universe provides help from its main page including glossaries, procedures, and its Stages of the Legislative Process. The databases Thomas and GPO access provide helpful information.

The following information may be useful in efficiently finding documents. Government information is available in various formats including print, maps, microforms, cdroms, and the electronic Internet. Government agencies as well as many private organizations have scanned large numbers of government documents providing access to many earlier print and manuscript documents in a digital format. For access and distribution, the US Government Printing Office is a key agency although not all documents are available through this agency. Many of the creating agencies provide their own access directly. All information created by the government agencies is not currently available for national security and privacy reasons but is made available eventually through the National Archives and Records Administration and digital formats. Traditionally, all government agency records are stored in the National Archives and Records Administration and eventually many aremicrofilmed or otherwise preserved.
Libraries provide bibliographic access to government information through online catalogs and databases, special print and electronic indexes, and various agency and subject guides. Many databases provide more in depth information to the contents than do most library catalogs.

The following list is arranged by broad categories with some explanation of the contents, the formats, and locations in the library.

Bills/Resolutions are the most specific pieces of information for beginning research on legislation or legislative tracing. Bills/resolutions begin with number one within several series for each congress. It is essential to know the date and bill/resolution number since many times hundreds on a subject are introduced in each congress. Bills/resolutions selectively may be printed in the Congressional record or in committee hearings.

For definitions of bills/resolutions, see Congressional Bills/Glossary

Definitions/Types of Legislation

How our Laws are Made

Bills/resolutions full text microfilm, microfiche, electronic
1817-1875 (Library of Congress) selected sessions of congress 1817 (House) and 1847 Senate
1789-1931 (1st Congress-72nd Congress) Mfilm N.S. 35 Green Media-Microtext
1933/34-1983/84 (73rd Congress-98th Congress) Mfiche 1267 Green SSRC-Microfiche
1989/90 (101st Congress) to date See the following databases:
Congressional universe GPO access Thomas

Committee and subcommittee hearings/transcripts are available full text in print, microfiche, and selectively via the Internet. The print congressional committee hearings including the call numbers are listed in Socrates and indexed in Congressional universe Note the call number citation as SUDOC:Y4 for print and CIS-NO: H617-5 for microfiche format. The print hearings are located in the government documents stacks. The Law Library also collects congressional committee hearings selectively.

Committee hearings full text in microfiche
1833-1956 Mfiche 34 SSRC
1833-1936 Unpublished House Committee hearings Mfiche 1049 SSRC mcrofiche; Hastings Law School Library has the complete fiche collection.
1965-1968 Unpublished Senate Committee hearings Hastings Law School Library
1993/94 (103rd Congress)- GPO Access
1989/90 (101st Congress)- Congressional Universe

Committee hearings full text in print
Search Socrates by subject, title, committee
Selected committee hearings via
1993/94 (103rd Congress)- GPO Access
1989/90 (101st Congress)- Congressional Universe

Committee reports and documents are available full text in print, microfiche, and via the Internet. The committee reports are indexed in Congressional Universe and note the call number under SuDocs: Y1. The Law Library also collects congressional reports and documents. The reports and documents are eventually bound into the Congressional serial set and housed in the federal documents stacks (Y1.1/2:serial set number ). The bound volumes are arranged by congress and session. Within the volumes, the reports are arranged by number. The report series includes the reports on bills/resolutions, and the documents series includes executive agency and private organization reports. 1789-1969 mfiche 1808 SSRC microfiche 1971 (91st Congress to date 1817-1980 U.S. Congressional Serial Set full text (Readex) Print Y1.1/2: 11304 to date fed-docs

American State Papers is the 38 volume set which includes executive and legislative documents found in archives or in manuscript records of the House and Senate. The set is organized by broad classes including foreign affairs, Indian affairs, finance, commerce and navigation, military affairs, naval affairs, Post Office, public lands, claims, and miscellaneous. Indexes are provided in the last volume of each class. The volumes are also indexed in Congressional universe. These documents will eventually be available in full text in the online U.S. Congressional Serial Set (Readex). Earliest to 1969 Mfiche 1908 SSRC Y 1.1/2:01-038 fed-docs stacks 1817-1980 electronic see database U.S. Congressional Serial Set (Readex)

Congressional Debates and Proceedings The recordings of the debates and proceedings on the floor of the congress have been issued under four titles including the Annals, Register of debates, the Globe, and currently the Congressional record. The set of volumes is available in print in the federal government documents stacks as follows and are available full text electronically via Congressional universe , GPO access, and Thomas. 1789-1875 years are available full via the Library of Congress.
The annals 1789- 1824 (1st Congress though first session 18th Congress) Register of debates,18th Congress, 2nd Session through the 25th Congress, 1st Session (1824-37). Globe, the congressional debates of the 23rd through 42nd Congresses (1833-73). Congressional record, 1873 to date. X/congress/vol fed-docs Print

Laws, Codes, Regulations

Public and Private Laws
U.S. laws are issued as unbound separate pamphlets known as "slip laws" which are bound into the permanent United States statutes at large and are also available electronically. These bound volumes represent the laws passed by each session of congress and include indexes. To locate a particular law the "public law" number and date is essential and can be found in the following sources by subject and popular name. To find the number, check the publications United States Code, Congressional record or secondary sources like Shepard's acts and cases by popular names, federal and state shelved in the Information Center. A complete print set is available in the Information Center (KF61.U55).

The United States statutes at large 1789-1875 are available full text and for more current in Congressional universe and Thomas

Codification of the law
Every 6 years the laws with annual supplements are codified into 50 broad titles and issued as the United States code (USC) is available in print and electronically. The volumes includea subject and popular names index volumes. This also source provides assistance in finding the public and private law numbers in the United States statutes at large.
The current edition is shelved in the Information Center (KF61.U55). Earlier editions beginning in 1924 are available in the Law Library.
The USC is also available electronically via GPO access, 1994 to current

Congress has delegated to departments and agencies within the executive branch with the power to issue rules, regulations, and administrative rulings which have the force of law.
Since 1938, the proposed and final rules have been printed in the daily Federal register If the proposed rules and regulations are approved, they are published in the annually revised Code of federal regulations: title 3 (CFR). The Federal register is also available in print from 1936 to current in the Law School Library and for the last five years in Green fed-docs (AE2.106).

The Code of federal regulations: title 3 (CFR), 1938 to date is available in the Green Library Information Center (KF70.A3). For the other titles, only the latest edition is housed in the Green Library Information Center (KF70.A3). The complete collection is available in the Law Library.

Congressional Support Agencies
In order to carry out its responsibilities, the congress over the years created agencies to assist its members in their work. These organizations include the Congressional Budget Office, Congressional Research Service, and the General Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office)
The Technology Assessment Office closed its office in 1995 existing for 23 years.

The Congressional Budget Office print publications are shelve in the federal government documents stacks and are listed in Socrates. The microfiche collection is available in SSRC microfiche (mfiche 57). Publications are available full text ,

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) publication Major studies and issue briefs is available in several locations in microfilm and microfiche with print indexes and beginning in 1990 electronically hosted by the University of Texas

1916-1990 Mfilm n.s. 1537 Media-Microtext
Print guide: Z733.U63C652/1916-89 SSRC
1991- Mfiche 1655 SSRC
Print guide: Z733.U63C653

General Accounting Office Full text reports are available on the agency web page beginning in 1995, are also indexed selectively in Statistical universe , and the print titles is listed in Socrates.

The Technology Assessment Office was responsible for providing assistance with the complex technical information needed by the congress. In 1995, the agency was cancelled by the congress. Publications are available in print and indexed in Socrates, microfiche (mfiche 57) and are indexed in Congressional universe. Full text of the documents available on cdrom Y3.T22/2:2L52/v.1-5/cd SSRC desk. And

Presidential documents Presidential speeches, statements, executive orders and proclamations are issued in several Federal Register Office publications including the Public papers of the president and Weekly compilation of president documents. The numbered executive orders and proclamations are collected and also printed in the Code of federal regulations, 1966 to date and in the daily Federal register, 1994 to date

The print collections for the Weekly compilation of presidential documents, 1965 to date (AE2.109) and the Public papers of the president Hoover to current (AE2.ll4) are shelved in the federal documents stacks. The Budget of the United States government with appendix, 1922 to date (PrEx2.8) and the Economic report of the president, 1946 to date (Pr president) are shelved in the SSRC docs, and all are available full text in GPO access. Coverage for the Budget is 1997 to date and for the Economic report from 1996 to date.

Selected Secondary Sources Secondary sources can provide background for searching legislation and include periodicals, journals, newspapers, privately published books, and the Internet. The creation and distribution of government information is dictated by administrative rules, agency regulations, or public laws which often specify where and when the information can appear. The following sources are excellent places to begin researching specific programs or identifying broad subjects of interest.
These sources include the necessary numbers, specific titles, and dates to begin the research. Many federal government programs have extensive legislative histories as the programs are renewed, renamed, or reinvented as discreet separate programs, and it is often a complex task to sort out the individual program being studied. Very current programs and programs of a national security nature often have little or no information available.

Congressional Quarterly weekly reports, 1957 to date. JK1.C66 SSRC-reading room; earlier volumes Green Stacks
Congressional Quarterly almanac, 1957 to date. JK1.C663 SSRC reading room; earlier volumes Green Stacks
Congress and the nation, 1945/46 to date. Issued for each presidential administration. KF49.C65 SSRC-reading room
Congressional Quarterly’s guide to the congress of the United States. 5th ed. 2000. K1021.C565 2000 SSRC-reading room
Congressional Quarterly’s guide to the presidency. 2nd ed. 1996. JK516.C57 1996 SSRC-reading room

American National Election Studies (ANES)

CQ voting & elections

International almanac of electoral history. 3rd ed. 1991.
JF1001.M17 1990

Parliamentary and presidential elections around the world

America votes: a handbook: a handbook of contemporary American election statistics, 1956 to date.
JK1967.A8 IC

American national election study, 1956 to date; Inter-University Consortium for Political Research
JK1967.A83 codebooks Green Stacks

Guide to U.S. elections. 4th ed. 1994
JK1967.C662 IC ref

Selected Directories
The following directories include agency and personal names with addresses and phone numbers. Many publications include email addresses.
Congressional yellow book. JK1083.6 IC latest editio
Federal regulatory directory. Annual.
JK.F44 IC latest edition; earlier Green Stacks

Federal yellow book. Quarterly. JK6.F45 IC latest edition

Official congressional directory, 1809 to date. Issued for each session of congress. JK1011 .U5 SSRC 1995/96 (104th Congress) to date.

US government manual, 1935 to date. Annual. AE 2.108/2: Fed-docs Stacks
1995/96 to date

US House of Representatives

United States Senate

Washington information directory. Annual.
F192.5.W32 IC latest edition; earlier editions Green Stacks


Last modified: June 17, 2008

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