Finding Federal Government Publications on the Internet
Updated Feb. 15, 2012.
Prepared by Peggy Roebuck Jarrett.
See also the Gallagher guides on Federal Legislative History and Presidential Documents.
General Strategies for Finding Federal Government Publications
Identify the publication, including title, author, date, and issuing body. Is it the work of an agency, committee, commission, or advisory board? The more information you have, the easier your search.
Look for general or legal news stories that might give clues to help identify and find the publication. Use LexisNexis, Westlaw, BNA’s daily topic newsletters, or Google News.
Search library catalogs: Gallagher Law Library, UW Libraries, or UW Law Worldcat.
Search the Government Printing Office (GPO) Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.
Search the Internet. Do a Google search limiting the domain to .gov by adding "site:.gov" to your search.
Search the website of the issuing body. Publications may not be obviously noted. Look for "library," "documents," "news," "press," "reading room," or "FOIA."
Use a book! The e-Government and Web Directory: U.S. Federal Government Online organizes over 2,000 websites into 20 subject-oriented chapters. ZA5075.E36 current at Reference Office.
Check "documents in the news" websites listed below.
For older publications, be prepared for multiple formats: paper, microfiche, CD-ROM, Internet. For new publications, the Internet is the most likely source.
Ask for help in the Reference Office or by email.
U.S. Government Meta-Sites
GPO’s Federal Digital System. Searchable digital repository for government information submitted by Congress and Federal agencies. Collections include the Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register; Congressional Record; Compilation of Presidential Documents; public and private laws; the United States Code; and congressional bills, reports, and some hearings. Information generally from the mid-1990s forward.
Catalog of U.S. Government
Bibliographic records of titles distributed through the Federal Depository Library Program since 1976. Includes electronic-only publications.
U.S. Government Online Bookstore
Publications available for sale.
National Technical Information Service
Searchable catalog of publications issued since 1964. Online ordering available; some publications may be free from the originating agency's website. NTIS publishes many technical, scientific, and business publications. This database contains more than 2 million bibliographic records.
Official U.S. government portal designed to be centralized location for federal, state, and local government information.
Federated search engine, launched in the fall of 2010, and billed as a service of the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. Searches more than 50 federal government publication catalogs, federal library catalogs, and specialized indexes and databases. Includes EPA and Federal Reserve Board publications, GAO Reports, National Criminal Justice Service Abstracts, Pubmed, Thomas, NTIS, and USA.gov. Note that many of the databases include citations and not the full document or links to ordering options.
Beyond the .gov Domain
List of agencies with direct links to their publications, forms, opinions, manuals, directories, and organization charts. Compiled by the Washburn University School of Law Library.
Simply organized directory compiled by the Louisiana State University Libraries in partnership with GPO.
Administrative Decisions & Other Actions
Links to administrative actions available on the Internet and outside the scope of the Code of Federal Regulations or the Federal Register. Organized by agency and subject. Compiled by the University of Virginia Library.
Provides permanent public access to the websites and publications of U.S. government agencies and commissions that have ceased operation. A partnership of the University of North Texas and GPO.
Gallagher Law Library - Free Law Online
Lists major access points for U.S. and Washington State legal information. Particularly helpful in finding administrative documents and decisions. See also the list of U.S. (Federal) Law research guides.
University of Washington Libraries Government Publications – United States Federal Government Resources includes both public websites and UW restricted databases.
Selected Federal Websites
Federal Judicial Center (FJC)
Research and education agency of the federal judiciary. Includes publications on courts and court administration, judges, alternative dispute resolution, evidence, and judicial history.
Government Accountability Office
Investigative arm of Congress. Produces hundreds of reports to Congress, plus testimony and correspondence, usually at the request of House and Senate members. Subject coverage is broad and includes energy, environmental protection, financial institutions, international affairs, and justice and law enforcement. Formerly, the General Accounting Office.
National Criminal Justice Reference
Federally sponsored clearinghouse of information on criminal justice. Includes reports on topics such as courts, juvenile justice, victims of crime, and drugs and crime. Many of these publications include statistics.
Congressional Research Service (CRS)
Provides nonpartisan research and analysis to Congress. CRS reports are chock full of useful information, but public availability is limited. For a list of sources to check, see the Gallagher guide on CRS Reports.
Congressional Budget Office (CBO)
Provides nonpartisan economic and budget analysis to Congress.
Documents in the News
Blog that includes notable government documents, with a government documents archive.
Daily list of reports issued by government agencies and other groups.
Check the Washington Post and New York Times. They sometimes link to the actual hot document.
If the document is controversial, see if a nongovernmental organization obtained and posted it.