In the previous post, I discussed the basics of U.S. government (its levels, branches, and how to approach finding government information). Now I'll list some of the best places to find government information, both by government branch and with a list of popular documents. First, here are a few places to starta search for government information, particularly when you're not sure what branch or agency might have collected the information that you need:
U.S. Statistical Abstract: current volume through ProQuest (CUL-affiliates only); previous years through Census website
FDsys: contains many congressional bills, docs, hearings, etc. (see right-hand navigation menu). In some cases, specific committees may not make their hearings available on FDsys until the year has ended–in this case, check ProQuest (below).
Statutes at Large (Public Laws): arranged chronologically by when a bill was passed. NOTE: the most current issues are not available online; Columbia affiliates may use the print copies at the Law Library.
Regulations: Congress passes legislation. The text of the legislation authorizes an agency, or agencies, to develop detailed rules to conform with the legislation. Executive Agencies issue regulations (rules). Both legislation and regulations have the force of law.
Federal Register: Agencies propose, open for comment, and finally publish "Final Rules."
New to the U.S., or just need to brush-up on some government basics? Here's a quick run-down of U.S. government at various levels and how to find government information. (I'll be writing two follow-up posts that tell where to find primary source information for each branch of government, and show an example of a gov info search.) First, here is a U.S. government chart and three basic guides to the federal government:
Each state has its own government which echoes the federal government in its three-branch organization. The Legislative branch is composed of the state senate and house (or assembly), the Executive branch is composed of the Governor and typically many departments (structure varies by state), and the Judicial branch is composed of the state court system, headed by the state supreme court. There are different local government offices at the county and the municipal (city/town) level. Typically, cities follow a similar pattern to federal and state government, with a Mayor acting as the chief executive officer of a city. Usually, a county is larger than and encompasses many cities and towns. However, New York City is made up of five boroughs, which are each actually counties (listed at right).
What Topics are Covered by Government Documents?
The U.S. government covers a surprising number of programs, and thus data and information is available on nearly any topic you can think of, including:
Looking for Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports on Journalists’ Privilege? CRS Reports examine Supreme Court and other court decisions and legislative proposals related to journalists’ privilege and rights to refuse to disclose information on sources in news gathering.
Try these 2 sources:
Open CRS – http://opencrs.com/ (freely accessible to public; note: reports do not become public until a member of Congress releases the report, so not all reports will be available through Open CRS.)
in the Search Open CRS box, type: journalists’ privilege
This periodically updated report on exceptions to the First Amendment comes from the Congressional Research Service, and is archived on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, since the CRS does not have its own public website. The report summarizes Supreme Court interpretations of freedom of speech and press.
If you want to pull up the New York daily schedule from the Associated Press, and are not in a Journalism School computer lab with access to the ENPS system, just connect to Factiva) (access restricted to current Columbia affiliates).
Once connected, in the “Free Text” box at the top, type:
exactly as they appear above. Then, select a date or date range (e.g. In the last week, In the last day, Enter a date range, etc.)
BEFORE running the search, verify under the “More Options” section at the bottom that the option to exclude “obituaries, sports, calendars” has not been checked (if it has, just un-check it).