How to Find a Government Document

Sometimes you need a particular piece of information that you are sure must be in some government document, but you just are not sure where to find it. We suggest the following approach:

1)  Try to determine what level of government is likely to be involved with the kind of information you want to find. For example, if you wanted to know about passports it is likely that the federal government who issues passports has the information. On the other hand, if you want to know about when the local state park will be closing for the year, that is likely to be information the state government provides.

2)  Once you know which level of government, try to narrow it down to which agency, department, or branch of government deals with that kind of information. For example, if you want a court opinion, it is probably a judicial branch question. If you want tax forms, you probably want the IRS or the Treasury Department. If you do not know off the top of your head, try looking at our SUDOC primer or at our lists of links for federal and state government. If the document you want is local (minutes from a town council meeting), you should probably contact your local government office directly.

Sometimes what you want is not published, but that does not mean the information is not available. Instead you may need to file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the governmental units which possesses the information you want. Your best bet is to contact that unit of government and inquire about their FOIA procedures. Within Illinois, you can find more information at the Illinois Secretary of State’s FOIA page. Alternately, you can consult an attorney.

Below, we have compiled a list of common questions/types of information students ask us about and some general advice on where to look for that information. If you do not see you questions, please use the chat widget located on most library pages or come by the library and we will be happy to assist you. We also suggest these additional resources:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
’s Government Document website (pay special attention to the "Research Tools" section)

Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville’s Government Document website


Where Do I Find . . . ?

STATISTICS?  Try the Statistical Abstract or the U.S. Census Bureau.

EDUCATION INFORMATION?  Try in the 'L' Classification or at the Department of Education.  You might also try state resources at the Department of Education for whatever state in which you are interested.

TAX FORMS?  We do not have paper tax forms in the library.  You can get federal forms from the Internal Revenue Service or state forms from the local state tax agency for whatever state in which you are interested.

AMERICORPS INFORMATION?  Yes, it can be located under this SuDoc number Y 3.N 21/29 or do a search for AmeriCorps on the Hathitrust website for full text documents.

INFORMATION ON OTHER COUNTRIES? Try the U.S. State Department's Background Notes or the CIA's World Factbook (and in print).

GOVERNMENT INFORMATION IN THE ONLINE PUBLIC CATALOG?  You can search I-Share to find the SuDoc call numbers of the government materials that the library owns in print.  If we don't own a copy, then you can request it through I-Share or interlibrary loan.  Otherwise, try searching the US Catalog of Government Publications online.

INFORMATION ON CORPORATIONS IN MY STATE?  Try looking at the state's Secretary of State's web page; this is usually where this information can be found as well as corporation related forms.  Note that each state has its own Secretary of State so you will need to make sure you are looking at the right state.  If you live close to a border, you may wish to check the other states across the border as well.  It also helps to know that many corporations incorporate in Delaware even if the corporate offices are elsewhere.

INFORMATION ABOUT WHO IS WHO IN STATE THE GOVERNMENT?  Many states have an official manual or handbook which lists all kinds of information about state government, officers, and state data.  This is usually published by the Secretary of State.