Definitions from FDSys:
Generally speaking, Documents are information coming IN to Congressional Committees, such as communications from the Executive Branch. Reports are information coming OUT of a Committee to the larger body, reporting on a piece of proposed legislation. Note that Reports can be very useful in studying legal history, since they describe the purpose of a proposed law, reasons for Committee recommendations regarding full chamber action, and often analysis and discussion of the proposed legislation's intent.
The Government Publishing Office's Federal Digital System (FDSys) is the major online source for relatively recent Reports and Documents.
These publications are usually available in either text or PDF format. The text version does not display charts, photographs, and other graphic materials. The PDF versions are electronic copies of the full publication, including any illustrative material, reproduced in the same quality as in the printed documents.
Matching Report and Document numbers with the Serial Set volumes into which they are bound is tricky, but can be useful when requesting material on Interlibrary Loan or doing research, especially in older volumes. Here's a listing from GPO, back to 1957:
Congress.gov contains Reports from the 104th Congress (1995) to the present. It does not contain Documents. Choose the "Committee Reports" option from the drop-down menu next to the search box. Various limiting options are available to narrow your search.
A great new feature on Congress.gov groups all reports (as well as legislation) associated with particular committees together.
Some Reports may be found on individual Committee web sites, but this availability varies considerably from Committee to Committee. Some Committees may provide lists, but not the actual Reports. Unless you have been specifically referred to a Committee web site for a Report or Document, it will usually be much easier to find this material through FDSys or Thomas.
The Serial Set is shelved in the position of classification number Y 1.1/2: in the Documents Collection on the 2nd Floor. Volumes received prior to 1997 are tan-colored and hardbound, and shelved by the sequential Serial Set Numbers printed in black on their spines.
In 1997 (105th Congress) the Library stopped receiving the official Serial Set and began inhouse binding of paper Reports and Documents. These publications from the 105th and later Congresses are shelved by Congress number within each individual series, using the following classification numbers:
In other words, for Reports and Documents prior to the 105th Congress, all series produced by a particular Congressional session can be found together in Serial Set volumes. Starting with the 105th Congress, all Reports and Documents in a particular series are shelved in numerical order. For example, 105th Congress House Reports are followed by 106th Congress House Reports, etc., within the Y 1.1/8: classification.
NOTE: In 2014, the Library stopped receiving printed Reports and Documents. Catalog records for electronic versions of these publications are still being placed in the Library's Catalog, however, and they can be searched by the classification numbers above, subjects, keywords, etc. The records contain links that will take you directly to PDF versions.
In recent years the Serial Set has been almost exclusively limited to being a (sometimes) dry record of Congressional recommendations and actions. But historically, it also contained many Executive Branch publications, including beautifully drawn maps and engravings, reports of explorations and investigations, etc.
Unfortunately, the Blume Library's collection does not contain any of these older historical treasures, but you can see some of them online:
Reports and Documents are usually cited in sources such as bibliographies by Report or Document number, not by Serial Set volume number. However, prior to 1981, the Reports and Documents were published in the Serial Set volumes with many gaps for numbers published separately. To find which volume contains a particular Report or Document, it's best to consult the Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes, a finding aid published for every Congressional Session. These Lists are shelved at the beginning of the Serial Set volumes. (There is a set of PDF versions of this reference series back to 1957 provided by the Government Publishing Office.)
Beginning with the 97th Congress (1981) the Serial Set became much more user-friendly, with Reports and Documents appearing in strictly numerical order, with no gaps. Matching up dates and Serial Set volumes is easy for any year if you consult this handy Table of Congressional Publication Volumes and Presidential Issuances, provided in PDF format by the the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.
All Reports and Documents are represented in the Library's Online Catalog,
If you have any questions about the Library's Serial Set/Reports and Documents collection, or are having difficulty locating any of these publications, please contact the Documents Librarian, using information at the top right of the Home page of this guide.
Many libraries around the country have more complete Serial Set holdings than we do. If you're interested in visiting another library for extensive research, you can find out the extent of their Serial Set holdings by consulting this Inventory, provided by the University of North Texas.