Introduction to Government Information

“The most important office of government is citizen.”  (Justice Louis Brandeis, 1856-1941.)


Getting Started

What is Government Information?

It might be easier to answer the question, what subject matter is NOT covered by government information?  The information produced by the government is vast in terms scope (it is hard to find a subject the government does not publish on) and breadth (the government has been publishing research, statistics, reports since its inception).  For a random example, the Census Bureau collects annual data on mode and time of transportation to work by age, sex, occupation, annual income range, etc for multiple geographic areas.  While this example may not be of direct interest to you, it illustrates the kind of interests and detailed data that governments collect.

Government information is also considered to be a primary source, which are important documents for conducting original research (A primary source is a document, speech, or other sort of evidence written, created or otherwise produced during the time under study. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event).


How Do I Find Information on My Interest?

One of the most significant resources for finding government information are the librarians and staff in the Government Documents Library.  We are here SPECIFICALLY to help you find the information you are looking for.  Reference services (via in-person reference and consultation, email, instant messaging, and phone) are available to affiliates of the university and the general public.  You can also browse the many user guides at our Government Information Guides and Course Guides to get a sense of the scope of information.  Because of certain idiosyncrasies specific to government publications and their organization even experts in their fields consult the government documents librarians to find print and electronic sources.


Exploring Our Collections and Guides

Below are links to our major collections.  These describe the content of the each collection including the time span, location, and cataloging of the collection.  The content of each collection includes legal processes, laws, regulations, statistics, and reports.  There is also a list of links to the specific government information guides for each collection.


Further Resources


Introduction to Government Information Sources, Lori L. Smith.  A brief guide to federal, state and local government information.  Basic starting point and outline of the whys and who’s of government information.

Introduction to E-Government A comprehensive source of information on e-government with both a basic overview and subject specific guides for the novice.

Guide to Finding Government Information A tutorial for navigating United States government information in the library, on the Web and in print format.

User’s Guide to United Nations Information Provides a detailed overview of the structure, document types, formats and locations, classification system, and shelving sequence of United Nations information.



U.S. Government on the Web: Getting the Information You Need, 3rd Ed., Peter Hernon, Robert E. Dugan, and John A. Shuler.

Introduction to United States Government Information Sources, 6th Ed., Joe Morehead.