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Finding Government Information: a basic guide: US Government

Provides general information on the organization and location of government publications in the Library; and on major website tools for finding government information online.

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General US information

Finding information by branch of government

As you'll remember from civics, the US government is divided into three branches that have different, interlocking responsibilities in running the country.

3 branches of US government

When looking for government information, it can be useful to remember this division of labor. Government information produced by these governmental actions stem from the appropriate branch:

  • Proposed laws and the deliberative process (hearings, etc.) surrounding them are produced by the Legislative Branch (Congress)
  • Regulations that determine how the laws are enforced are developed in the Executive Branch. This branch, through its various agencies, also publishes a variety of reports, consumer information, maps, statistics, etc.
  • The Constitutionality of the laws, and questions of fairness and interpretation in their enforcement, is determined by the Judicial Branch, consisting of the system of federal courts, crowned by the Supreme Court (remember that there are other systems of courts performing similar functions for the states and for local areas)

On this page of the LibGuide, you'll find tips on looking for US government information based on the three branches. For more detailed information on the Library's collection of tangible government information, see the In the Library tab, and for more in-depth guidance in finding online government information, see the On the Web tab.

    Legislative Branch information

    For much more detailed information on the Legislative branch, see these Research Guides:

    Judicial Branch information

    scalesThe Blume Library no longer holds printed volumes of the U.S. Reports, which are Supreme Court decisions. The Law Library has a complete collection of decisions in print.

    For more in-depth information on finding judicial information, see our Guide: Legal Resources for Non-Law Students.

    Executive Branch information

    Here are some other good sites to try if you don't find what you need in the Library Catalog:

    White HousePublications from the Executive Branch are the most various of the three branches of government. They range from the Code of Federal Regulations (codification of all federal regulations) to the Surgeon General's reports on the effects of smoking, to decals from each NASA mission, and much, much more.

    The best way to find both electronic and tangible Executive Branch documents is by searching in the Library's Catalog. And if you're looking for a particular government agency's website, try the sources in our Find an Agency box below.

    Government information in the Catalog

    The Library's Catalog contains full records (author, title, subject, notes, etc.) for thousands of electronic government publications, and hundreds more are being added every month. Plus, whenever we find online versions of documents we hold in print, links are added to these catalog records so that the publication can be accessed online.


    Find an agency