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What is a Government Document?
A government publication is any informational material published by the U.S. federal government. The U.S. government, the most prolific publisher in the world, produces information on almost every subject, including business and the economy, the environment, social sciences, education, health, and labor.

Government publications can provide information on a wide range of geographic areas and time periods. Common types of information are statistical and reference works, manuals, bibliographies, handbooks, indexes, reports, studies, and maps.

Publications are produced in several formats, including book, pamphlet, periodical, microform, audiovisual formats, computer software, CD-ROM, DVD, and Internet sites.

Other Government Document Tutorial web pages:

How to Read a SuDoc Number
The call number for federal government documents will differ from that used for regular books and periodicals. Federal documents are shelved by the Superintendent of Documents system, abbreviated as SuDoc. Unlike the regular collection (which is organized by topic), government documents are organized by agency.

SuDoc numbers always begin with a letter or letters combined with a number, then a period, then a number, then a colon. The colon is followed by more numbers and/or letters.

The letters at the beginning of a SuDoc number represent a specific government department or agency such as:

A = Agriculture Department

C 3. = Census Bureau, Commerce Department

D = Defense Department

E = Energy Department

ED = Education Department

EP = Environmental Protection Agency

GA = Genereal Accountability Office

GS = General Services Administration

HE = Health and Human Services Department

HE 20.700: = Centers for Disease Control

HS = Homeland Security Department

I = Interior department

I 19. = U.S. Geological Survey (Interior Department)

J = Justice Department

JU = Judiciary

L = Labor Department

LC = Library of Congress

NAS = National Aeronautics and Space Administration

S = State Department

SI = Smithsonian Institution

T 22 = Internal Revenue Service (Treasury Department)

X, Y = Congress

Y 4. = Congressional Committees

Subagencies are assigned a number. For instance, the Census Bureau, an agency within the Department of Commerce, is given the number 3. So…all Census Bureau publications have SuDoc numbers that start with C 3.

Within a subagency, each series is also assigned a number. For example, the Census Bureau’s U.S. Exports of Merchandise series is given the number C 3.278/3:. Each individual publication in the series is then assigned a unique number or alphabetical symbol based on year, volume, series number, or title. The unique publication number follows the colon. Therefore, C 3.278/3:2009/7 is the Sudocs number for the July 2009 issue of U.S. Exports of Merchandise.

In summary, the first half of a SuDoc number (up to the colon) identifies the agency and series, and the last half identifies the specific publication. Publications are filed alphabetically by letter and then numerically, first grouped by subagency, then by series, and finally, arranged alphabetically or numerically within each series.

Note: This is NOT a decimal system; the number after the period is a whole number.

How to Find a Government Document
Most federal documents published since 1976, as well as Louisiana state documents, are accessible in Ellender Memorial Library’s online catalog.

The Government Documents department is located on the 3rd floor of Ellender Memorial library.

Another option is to search the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. This is the finding tool for federal publications that includes descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to documents that are available online. Most titles date from 1976 forward. Users can search by authoring agency, title, subject, and general keyword, or click on “Advanced Search” for more options.

Reference assistance is available from the Government Documents staff and from staff members working the Reference Desk. You can also contact Government Documents staff by phone at 985-448-4667 or fill out an online form.

How to Cite a Government Document
DocsCite, a service provided by the Arizona State University Libraries, automatically constructs a citation for you in MLA or APA format, based on information you enter.

The University of Nebraska’s Government Documents Department Web site has guidelines and samples of citation of government publications in APA, Chicago Manual, MLA and Turabian.

U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual [30th ed.] (Government Printing Office)

  • A copy of this style manual is also available at Government Documents Ready Reference on the 3rd floor of Ellender Memorial Library under SuDoc number: GP 1.23/4:ST 9/2008.
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