Finding Government Information Online: Thereâ€™s Something for Everyone
By Molly Fischer
Online Librarian and Editor, American Public University
Government information is a fantastic resource for students to utilize when researching and crafting academic papers. This is true for several reasons:
- It is generally reliable and authoritative
- The vast majority of publications are available online
- It covers nearly every topic you can think of, from a recent report on the health challenges humans might face during a mission to Mars to actress Elizabeth Taylor’s FBI file
- It is a primary source
- It is free and accessible to all either over the web or through the Federal Depository Library Program
So how do you find government information? It is available in many places, and where you search depends on the type of information you’re seeking.
To begin your research, try USA.gov, which will help you get a broad overview of government information that might be available on your topic. The site has several pre-set topics for you to choose from, as well as a search engine specifically limited to government websites.
FDSys is the online digital depository for the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO). FDSys contains important government documents such as presidential papers, Congressional hearings and reports, and federal statutes and legal materials. At FDSys, you can search on particular topics and download full copies free of charge.
If you’re looking for a specialized topic, you may want to search the particular federal agency that conducts research on the topic you have in mind. For example, the Department of Energy’s website might be a great starting point if you’re researching for a paper on renewable energy technologies. A complete listing of federal government agencies, kept in partnership with the U.S. GPO, is maintained at the Louisiana State University Federal Agency Directory.
Here are some other helpful frequently-used government websites:
- The CIA World Factbook gives you detailed, reliable information on 267 world entities, including history, economic data, military information, and more.
- Data.gov has open data from dozens of U.S. Government agencies. These datasets can be viewed, downloaded, and used in research.
- THOMAS.gov contains Congressional information for the current and several past legislative sessions. Includes bills organized by sponsor, votes, a daily digest, and more.
- The United States Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder has reliable census information on population, income, demographics, and more for communities nationwide.
Consult your librarian for assistance in finding the best resources for government information in your area of study. Whether you’re researching Carodacus mexicanus for ornithology class or you’d just like to read the Center for Disease Control’s recommendations in case of Zombie Pandemic, government information has something to offer you!
About the Author
Molly Fischer is the editor of the APUS ePress, an APUS librarian, and repository manager for DigitalCommons@APUS. Molly completed her Master of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin and has worked previously as an academic librarian, specializing in government documents and legal materials.