Using Government Websites and Government Organizations to Guide Research

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Government websites and government organizations are valuable sources of information, and information you find on these sites can serve as a research guide as you work through the research process and narrow your topic. Federal, state and local governments all maintain websites, many of which are flush with useful information on a variety of topics. For example, different types of federal information obtained from government websites might include the following types of information:

  • Information from executive agencies—news, press releases, reports, statistics, studies, white papers
  • Judicial information—arguments calendar and opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals opinions, Bankruptcy Court opinions, federal judicial histories
  • Legislative information—Text of legislative bills, the status of bills, congressional voting records and subcommittee reports, transcripts of congressional hearings
  • Regulatory information—Code of Federal Regulations, rules of various federal agencies

With so many subjects covered in the comprehensive and too-exhaustive-to-include-here list of government sites, government websites provide you with information that helps guide your research.

The value of using information from government websites

The U.S. government is an exceptional source of information for several reasons:

  • It is one of the largest publishers in the world.
  • It products a vast amount of information on just about any subject you can imagine.
  • It offers information that is considered accurate, reliable and authoritative.
  • It collects statistics that prove a valuable source of supporting information for your research on virtually any topic.
  • It is copyright free and free to access.

Accessing government websites to conduct research

Government websites and information are accessed differently depending on both the format and the location. Some government documentation is only available in non-electronic form in physical libraries. However, there are two government websites that serve as powerful portals to an abundance of information:

USA.gov—This website is the information hub for all government agency publications, and it is organized by subject. On this site, you can search in several ways:

  • By topic
  • By using an A-Z list of resources

GPO Access (gpoaccess.gov)—This is the Government Printing Office’s website. As such, it is the publisher of all governmental information put together by any federal agency. There are several aspects of GPO Access that make your searches and guiding your research easier:

  • Access to search the U.S. Government Catalog (which, since 1994, has provided a listing of all government information)
  • Ability to search by topic
  • Ability to browse an A-Z Agency Index

A few additional government websites that might prove useful in guiding your research include:

  • The U.S. Patent and Trademark Agency (uspto.gov)
  • The Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration (ita.doc.gov).
  • Business.gov
  • Science.gov

While government websites and organizations are useful tools for finding a treasure trove of information, keep in mind that statistics and related information usually lags several years behind the actual studies or collection of data. If you have not already explored government websites to help focus your research paper topic and guide your research, now is a great time to start.