U.S. Government Information 101

This is a basic guide to online resources for locating information published by the U.S. Federal government. For more information about a specific topic, please consult one of the detailed subject guides.

Resources marked with this symbol are restricted to Columbia affiliates.

General Resources

Use the popular Google search engine to perform searches that will retrieve items only  from official U.S. federal, state, and local government web sites. Go to Google Advanced search. In the last search box, type .gov or .mil to restrict your search to those domain names.

  • Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, 1976-Present
    This is a catalog of all publications distributed to U.S. Federal depository libraries, 1976-present. The "Locate in a Library" link provides information about which libraries received that item. If the publication is available online, there will be a link.
  • FDsys
    FDsys is a portal to all the online publications archived by the Government Printing Office. It includes all major Congressional publications, and selected material from the Executive and Judicial branches. All of the FDsys collections are authenticated with digital signatures.
  • Hein Online
    Hein Online is a portal to full text legal materials online. It includes the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, Statutes at Large, U.S. Attorney General Opinions, the Congressional Record, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Public Papers of the Presidents, and many other executive agency and Congressional documents. In general, coverage is complete, with some exceptions.
  • NTIS (National Technical Information Service)
    NTIS provides access to technical publications from various Federal agencies.
  • USA.gov
    USA.Gov is the official portal to U.S. government information. It is particularly useful for locating consumer information and online government services.

The President

  • The White House
    The White House web site is the source for current information about the President's activities and programs. It includes press briefings and the latest presidential proclamations and directives. There are also links to the offices and agencies which comprise the Executive Office of the President.
  • Public Papers of the Presidents
    The Public Papers of the Presidents is a compilation of Presidential writings, addresses, and remarks of a public nature. It is issued in several volumes for each administration.

  • Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents
    The Daily Compilation (formerly the Weekly Compilation) is the official publication of presidential statements, messages, remarks, and other materials released by the White House Press Secretary; in effect, a record of the President's official day.

Executive Agencies


Congressional materials can be difficult to locate. Items like bills and hearings may have many different versions and may be found on several different databases, depending on year of issuance or status. A citation may give a year, but you need to know the session of Congress, or the Congressional Record volume number. An invaluable source for answering all of these questions is the Legislative Source Book, from the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.

  • CQ.com
    CQ.com is the source for the latest reporting and analysis of events on Capitol Hill. CQ tracks and analyzes bills, and links to full text. It also provides committee coverage, floor votes, and more.

    Note: Date coverage varies by file.
  • CQ Press Electronic Library
    CQ Electronic Library is a collection of full text materials produced by Congressional Quarterly Press. Included are reference and analysis titles: CQ Almanac, Congress and the Nation, Historic Documents, Politics in America, Vital Statistics in American Politics, Voting and Elections, and Washington Information Directory.
  • ProQuest Congressional
    The ProQuest Congressional database contains both citations and full text to a wide variety of Congressional publications, including committee documents, hearings, prints, & reports; the Congressional Record; Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports; GAO reports; serial set indexing; campaign financial data; bills; public laws; Statutes at Large; legislative histories; the U.S. Code; the Code of Federal Regulations; and the Federal Register.

    Note: Date coverage varies by file; not all titles are full text. The Columbia subscription also includes full text for: CRS reports, 1916-present; hearings, 1824-2004; committee prints, 1830-2004; and Statutes at Large.
  • Thomas: Legislative Information
    In 1994, Congress directed the Library of Congress to make federal legislative information freely available to the public. Since that time THOMAS has expanded the scope of its offerings to include: bills & resolutions, public laws, roll call votes, the Congressional Record & Index, Congressional committee reports, Presidential nominations, and treaties.

The Federal Judiciary

  • U.S. Courts: the Federal Judiciary
    The official web site for U.S. Federal courts, with links to the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, District Courts, and Bankruptcy Courts. There are also links to full text reports and statistics on the court system. There is also fee-based access to some court records via PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records).
  • U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978
    U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978, features a fully searchable database of approximately 11 million pages and more than 350,000 separate documents. Approximately 150,000 Supreme Court cases are featured, the majority consisting of those for which the Court did not give a full opinion.

Statistics from the Federal Government

  • Statistical Abstract of the United States. Annual. 1878-
    Call Number: HA202 .Un31 (Copies available in multiple locations)
    The Statistical Abstract of the United States is a compilation of statistics on the social, political, and economic themes for the United States. It is searchable or easily browsed by 30 main topics. The Statistical Abstract is available from 1878-present, and all tables can be viewed as PDFs or downloaded as Excel files. Statistical Abstract data is presented primarily at the national level. All tables are footnoted to the specific source publication, for more specific data. There are also links to the State and Metropolitan Area Data Book and the County and City Data Book.
  • Fedstats: the Gateway to Statistics from Over 100 U.S. Federal Agencies
    FedStats offers browse lists by topic, geography, or agency. It also links to several statistical compilations and to the web sites for all Federal statistical agencies.
  • American FactFinder
    American FactFinder is a portal to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, including the Decennial Census of Population and Housing, American Community Survey, Economic Census, Annual Survey of Manufactures, County Business Patterns, and Population Estimates Program. FactFinder also allows you to map the data to various levels of geography.