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Government Documents Research Guide

Use this guide to find UNO library resources and other helpful research tools.


govinfo is the official Internet portal of the U.S. Government Publishing Office, designed to provide free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government.

In addition to providing an advanced, metadata-powered search experience, govinfo also includes a content management system and a standards-compliant preservation repository.

These three components comprise GPO’s world-class system for the comprehensive management of electronic information:

  1. Public access - GPO combines modern search technology with extensive metadata creation to ensure the highest quality search experience. Users can easily access documents for free by searching or browsing the mobile-friendly website.
  2. Content management – GPO securely controls digital content throughout its lifecycle to ensure content integrity and authenticity. This includes the application of digital signatures to PDF files so users can verify documents have not been altered and are the official versions.
  3. Digital preservation – GPO’s standards-compliant preservation repository follows archival system standards and ensures content is preserved for future generations despite technical failure, aging of hardware, or technological change. GPO was the first Federal agency to be named as a Trustworthy Digital Repository for Government information through certification under ISO 16363.

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Proceedings and Debates

Proceedings and Debates

Annals of Congress (1789-1824)
Congressional Debates (1824-1837)
Congressional Globe (1836-1873)
Congressional Record (1873-To Date)

These four series provide a record of Congressional debates and speeches made on the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Congressional Record is also notable for including copies of letters, articles, and other materials which members arrange to have inserted into the transcript. Criss Library has a strong collection of original volumes shelved in the U.S. Documents Collection.

The library subscribes to HeinOnline, a database which includes searchable, scanned images of all four of these series of Proceedings and Debates. 

Congressional Serial Set

Congressional Serial Set

Established with the 15th Congress (1817-1818), the Congressional Serial Set contains committee reports and other documents created during their deliberations. Congressional Serial Set volumes are numbered sequentially (1, 2, 3, etc.), and they now extend to over 15,000. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, Congress found it convenient to include many documents prepared by the Executive departments and agencies, and this contributed to making the Congressional Serial Set a remarkably rich Federal archive.

Researchers will find original copies for about 7,500 Congressional Serial Set volumes shelved in the U.S. Documents collection. Distribution of most bound Congressional Serial Set volumes ceased after the 104th Congress (1993-1994), but the library continues to catalog electronic copies of individual reports and documents.

The library subscribes to the Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set database, which provides scanned images and PDF files of the volumes published through 1980.  The Readex database also includes the American State Papers, a compilation of documents spanning 1789-1838.  Volumes published in the Congressional Serial Set through 1980 are also available in the ProQuest Congressional database.

Committee Hearings and Prints; Senate Executive Documents and Reports

Congressional Hearings and Committee Prints; Senate Executive Documents and Reports

The library has over 100,000 paper and microfiche copies of Congressional committee hearings, and they are all recorded in the library catalog. The Congressional collections also include many committee prints, which are typically research reports compiled by committee staffs or commissioned by a committee.

The ProQuest Congressional database includes PDF copies of hearings and committee prints from the early 1820s through 1980.

ProQuest Congressional also includes an archive of unpublished committee hearings and Senate Executive Documents, few of which ever saw public distribution and were previously available only in microfiche collections.

Major Studies and Issue Briefs of the Congressional Research Service

Major Studies and Issue Briefs of the Congressional Research Service

  • Update 2021: the Library of Congress launched a new website providing free access to CRS reports extending back several years, with more years to come. Congress passed a law in early 2018 removing the stipulation that CRS reports be largely reserved for Congressional use.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), headquartered in the Library of Congress, prepares research reports to support Congressional deliberations. The CRS has been active since 1916, but but for much of its life its reports were treated by Congress as internal working documents. Few saw wide distribution, which means CRS reports often contained information which is very difficult to find.

The ProQuest Congressional database contains CRS reports spanning 1916-1990, and an online archive compiled by the libraries of the University of North Texas covers much of the gap remaining before the Library of Congress site was launched.

Congress via C-SPAN Video

The C-SPAN Video Library provides free online access to videorecordings of Congressional activity extending back to 1987:

The C-SPAN Archives records, indexes, and archives all C-SPAN programming for historical, educational, research, and archival uses. Every C-SPAN program aired since 1987, now totaling over 265,000 hours, is contained in the C-SPAN Archives and immediately accessible through the database and electronic archival systems developed and maintained by the C-SPAN Archives.