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Find Government Sources

What are Government Documents?

Anything published by a government entity (state, local, federal foreign, international) is a government publication. In addition to obvious documents such as laws, regulations, and court decisions, governments also generate extensive statistics, fund research, chart maps, and publish periodicals and magazines. Government publications are also considered primary sources (link) in many subject areas.

The United States government is the largest publisher in the world. As one of 50 regional depositories in the U.S., the OSU library receives copies of government publications in all subject areas. Librarians in the Documents Department are trained to help you locate all types of government information.

Consider government information as your first stop if you need:

  • Laws and regulations
  • US Court decisions including the Supreme Court
  • Congressional reports, hearings
  • Data and statistics
  • Census material
  • Import/export data
  • Technical reports
  • Consumer guides (health, disaster recovery)
  • Maps (road, topographical, aerial, historical, and stellar).

What about Oklahoma documents? International?

  • The OSU Library is also a Depository for State of Oklahoma publications. The state publishes materials in the same subject areas and formats as the federal government. In addition, the department receives many publications from international and foreign governments and selectively acquires materials from other U.S. states and from non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) such as the Institute of Peace.

Finding Government Documents in the OSU Library:

Online catalog

To locate recently published (since 1990) federal, state or international documents consult the library online catalog:

Documents Department

The OSU Library Documents Department is located on the 5th floor of the OSU Library and makes available U.S. Government publications that can be checked out or photocopied. The department also maintains a Web site which can be used to locate federal, state, international and foreign information by government entity or agency, keyword, subject, etc.:

You made need help because…

  • Government information is not classified by Dewey like the main collection, but instead is classified by the Jackson and the SuDocs systems, and call numbers will look different than main collection materials.

  • Government Documents are arranged by issuing agency rather than by subject so you cannot browse the shelves by subject like you can the main collection.

  • You may have difficulty locating materials at first, so when you have found something you need in the catalog, print off the record and bring it to the documents reference desk for help.

  • Older materials might not be listed in the electronic catalog. Ask for reference desk help or use the card catalog on the 5th floor, which lists publications by agency and title.

  • Certain materials, such as legal or congressional materials, may require librarian help to access through special indexes.

Locating Government Information on the Internet

Library Catalog

Over 95 per cent of current Federal Government Information and much State Information is on the Internet. The OSU electronic catalog has links to many of these electronic documents as well as to paper, CD, and microform formatted documents. Search by keyword as you would for other library materials. In addition, the OSU Library Documents Department web site has links to many documents and websites containing government information, arranged by topic.

On the Web


  • is an excellent government-created search engine where you can find government information by subject, or can search for specific titles of documents, such as the Code of Federal regulations, or the U.S. Budget.

  • Google U.S. Government, links you to current topics in government, headline information, and hot topics.

  • In addition, there are several subject search engines which comb government agencies for information on broad subject areas. You may want to try one of these:

use SoonerSearch.

Foreign and International

The Documents Dept. web page has links to several international government web sites, such as the UN, OECD, and World Bank.

As always, if you have trouble finding a document check with the Documents Dept. for help.

Click here to go on to the next step in the research process.

Accessibility Legend
Available to all free of charge
Resource available via the Internet to everyone free of charge.
Internet resource licensed by OSU
Resource available via the Internet to the Oklahoma State University community (faculty, staff, and students), Stillwater campus. These resources may be available to other users depending upon permissions from their home institution.
CD-ROM available in OSU libraries
Resource available via CD-ROM at public workstations in the Oklahoma State University Library. These resources may be available to other users depending upon resources at their home institution.
Print resources available at OSU
Resource available in print at the Oklahoma State University Library. All call numbers refer to this library. These resources may be available to users at other locations.

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Last Updated: 1 Sept 2009