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Ready, Set, Research! Materials for Writing Your Research Paper

Government Documents

  • Federal Government (all resources below are open access)

    The recently-launched govinfo.gov aims to provide free U.S. government information and replaces the GPO’s FDsys website.  Materials are available through a variety of entry points, including collection and A-Z listings.  Congressional materials are heavily represented, but there also are Presidential materials and some interesting and/or hard-to-find resources, such as the CyberCemetary of Federal Government Websites and the Plum Book.

    The U.S. Census Bureau collects and parses huge amounts of information on the United States population, including income and poverty, education, race, and health. 

    Individual agencies’ websites contain a wealth of information, documents, and links.  USA.gov lists federal departments and agencies and provides links to their websites.

  • State Governments and Courts (all resources below are open access)

    USA.gov is a good place to start looking for a particular state’s government information.

    The National Center for State Courts has compiled judicial branch links for each state. 

    Libraries (law or otherwise) have compiled government documents library guides in a variety of jurisdictions.  Search for “library guide [state] government documents.” 

    For more on Pennsylvania legislative or court documents, see Temple Law Library’s Pennsylvania Legal Research Guide.

  • Local Governments and Courts

    Local governments vary widely in the amount of information available online; even basic information may not be available or easily found on a municipality’s website.  Open access databases compiling local ordinances include Municode, American Legal Publishing, and General Code

    Local newspapers may have covered the issue of interest.  Many of these newspapers are available on the web.  In addition, Lexis News (Temple Law access) is searchable by state or region and contains many local newspapers.

    Don’t be afraid to email or call the local government’s offices.  This often is the most efficient way to find the information you need – and sometimes it’s the only way!

  • Bloomberg Law (for dockets) (Temple Law access)
    Bloomberg Law’s Docket Search allows users to search across federal and state dockets.  While the federal dockets are kept up-to-date, state (especially county court) dockets lag, so it’s best to double-check the local court’s website.  For federal documents, law students can request the documents for free.

  • HeinOnline (Temple Law access)
    Hein has multiple government documents collections.  Some, such as Subject Compilations of State Laws or U.S. Congressional Serial Set, are grouped by document type.  Others, such as the American Indian Law Collection and Gun Regulation and Legislation in America, are grouped by subject.  Hein also has the ability search across all of its databases for documents of interest.

  • Additional library guides (open access)

    The Library of Congress provides legal research guides for several government document types, including administrative law and legislative history.  There’s also a link to a tutorial on Congress.gov’s many features.

    Harvard Library has research guides for a variety of government document categories, including Department of State documents and local government documents.

    The University of Michigan’s State and Local Government library guide contains many additional resources.