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Government Information: Agency Searching

This LibGuide provides basic information about how to find and use government documents in the Bowling Green State University Libraries, as well as government documents on the Internet or in databases.

Search Strategies

Sears and Moody identified various search strategies in their book, Using Government Publications: Electronic and Print.

Known Item Search: Useful when you know the title of the item you are seeking, for example Hearing on Appalachia : poverty alleviation strategies : hearing before the Select Committee on Hunger

Subject searches: are similar in approach whether searching for government information or other library resources.  Bibliographies, guides, indexes, and search engines are useful. There are a variety of special government publication
indexes and locators.

Agency Search: Most kinds of government information are not cited by the author but by the agency responsible for issuing them.  One strategy is to identify the government agency responsible for publishing the information you want.  For instance if you wanted a crop report you could go to the USDA website.

Statistical Search: The government issues a huge amount of data and if you're looking for numbers, a government source is frequently available.  In a statistical search you will need to define in detail what you need--do you want crime data by race or other demographic characteristics?  Do you need statistics at the city or national level? Do you need statistics for 1910 or 2010?

Special techniques searches: Include a number of complex, multistep search strategies employed when you want to locate a special topic or type of material such as material at the National Archives, historical information, legislative histories, regulations, grants, treaties, or patents.

A Three Step Process to Find Agency Information

How to identify and find government agencies:

The Agency Approach to Finding Government Information demonstrates a Three-Step "Agency Approach" to finding government information on the Internet.

First: Identify which government agency would be likely to publish the type of information you are looking for.

  • For instance, if you wanted crop information--how about the Agriculture Department? The Department of Education is likely to issue data and information about teaching. The Justice Department would be a good agency for criminal justice resources. The Internal Revenue agency is a good starting place for tax resources. And for employment information and statistics, the Labor Department is top of the list.
  • You can browse through a list of government agencies to pick out agencies that might issue the information you want.
  • The more research you do in government documents, the more you will become familiar with the agencies and their publishing programs.

Second: Go to that agency's Web home page.

  • A lot of agencies have very easy urls:
  • If you cann't guess what the agency url is, go to Google or any other internet search engine and type in the agency name

Third: Mine that agency's Web pages for information you are looking for.

  • Much of the information on agency websites is NOT easily found in general Internet search engines--it's buried in the deep web.
  • Agency home pages have search engines, A-Z lists, and directories to help users plum the depths of their content.

Sources That Will Help You Identify Government Agencies