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ELLM5170: Information Sources and Services: Government Information Sources

What are Government Documents (Information Sources)?

Governments have always recorded their information, however the United States with its representative form of government has advanced this idea.  Over the years the publication of government information has expanded. While many traditional think of government documents as being produced by the federal government. government publications are also produced by city, county, and state governments, as well as by international organizations and foreign countries.

During most of the 20th century citizens depended on federal depository libraries for access to many federal documents. These federal depositories used a classification system called the Superintendent of Documents system (aka SuDoc). This system is based not on subject but on the federal agency distributing the information.

With the advent of the internet many government publications are freely available online. You have already seen and used many of these.


Different Types of Government Information Sources

Federal government information sources fall into many categories:

General facts and directories:

  • U.S. Government Manual,
  • Washington Information Directory

Web search engine:,

Catalogs and bibliographies:

Periodical indexes:

  • American Statistics Index
  • ERIC
  • PAIS
  • PubMed/MEDLINE

Law and legislative information:

  • (electronic gateway to bills, resolutions, legislative actions, congressional publications, etc.),
  • FDsys(Federal Digital System) from U.S. Government Printing Office, includes Congressional Record (debates and votes from Congress), Federal Register (Proposed rules and regulations) & Code of Federal Regulations (Final rules & regulations),

Statistical sources:


Some online government information sources

In the "Almanacs, Directories, Handbooks, Yearbooks" section see the following government publications:  the CIA Factbook, Country Studies/Area Handbook series, and Occupational Outlook Handbook. Many geographical sources originate as government publications:  

Some print government publications

In the "Almanacs, Directories, Handbooks, Yearbooks" section see the following government publications:  Occupational Outlook Handbook, Statesman Yearbook, Statistical Abstracts, U.S. Government Manual.