Transcript - Introduction to Government Websites - Jan 10 2018

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>> Up here, for example, government agencies and elected officials. You have this A‑Z index of U.S. government agencies which can be helpful. If you need to locate state resources, you can do so here. Here is information on the branches of the government. You can figure out who your elected officials are up here. Another really helpful link and it is something that you might overlook is this link right here that says, "learn what you can do on this site". There is going to be some version of this kind of link on all the web sites we see, and I highly recommend you look at it when you come back. They will contain a lot of really helpful information and go into much more detail than we can in today's webinar. Then the other thing I wanted to point out on was this link up here that says, "contact us". If you come here and you are looking for specific information and you can't find it, you can contact those who maintain this website and they will get back to you. You can see this search box up here. I am just going to run a very quick search just to show you what it looked like. I searched for immigration and health care. The way that searches is it looks for these terms in all government web sites. You can up here it says all government. You can change that to search only but that will really limit what you see.

As you go through here, you can read the title of the things and then see the actual URL right below. In almost every case they are going to end in dot gov. That is good that is what you want to see. I notice on the second page of the results we get a dot com result. It will apparently turn up third party results, so you have to be careful with that. Just look at that URL suffix.

>> It is really mostly useful as a program to other specific government agencies or for very general searching. Okay. The next one I want to show you is called FDSYS and it is a wonderful website. If you can only access one, it is the one you want to access. It is maintained by the U.S. government publishing office. It covers all three branches. It has lots of different types of information, congressional reports, court opinions, documents from the federal register, etc., etc. We can see up here on the left all of these links are designed to orient you to this website. A lot of helpful information in this "about FDSYS link". You can browse government publications which is helpful when you are just starting out researching a topic. You will see this central search box here as well. You also have an advanced search feature which really in any other circumstance I would recommend using. For FDSYS and a search this simple you don't really need to, but you will have more options on the advanced search page. And I want to point out the retrieve by citation link. If you have a citation, you can enter that in here as well. This is what the results page looks like on FDSYS. It is fairly busy and overwhelming but there are various ways to narrow your search. We got 57,065 results for immigration and health care. That is a lot. There are various ways over here that you can narrow your search much like the ways you can narrow your results in some of our databases.

When you are browsing through your list of results you will see your search terms bolded. Sometimes it can be a little hard to see but your search terms will appear bolded wherever they appear in that document. And here we have some examples of those really confusing government document titles. Serial number, 110‑117. 150 and things like that. Most of us don't know what to do with that kind of title. But if you look directly under that it is going to tell you what type of document this is. So up here we have a congressional hearing. This is a congressional record. If we scroll down this is from the federal register. That can kind of help you get ‑‑ that can kind of help you understand what you are about to look at when you click on it.

Okay. I also wanted to show you because it is going to be replacing FDSAS. It is more user‑friendly, shows both electronic and print materials, it is good for older material because it will show you those as well. I did do a sample search previous to this webinar in both sites and I got the exact same number of results. So 57, 065. It pretty much mirrors the other site but it will be eliminated and govinfo and where you will want to go.

Let's talk about statistics a little bit. As I said before, statistics is a very specific thing. It is a very large topic, but your main resource is The census bureau website. This is a great place for statistics on all kinds of things. I want to point out the tabs along the top. This is going to be how you navigate this website. You can browse by topics right here. Or you can tell it exactly where you are focused on if you are focused on a particular geographical area. The library is where the publications are that the census produces and there are quite a lot. And data is where you can access ‑‑ they have tools to help you find the particular statistic that you are looking for. So if you go to data and you go to data main ‑‑ the first thing that comes up is American fact finder tool. This is really, really helpful. It makes searching for statistics a breeze. It asks you a series of questions and suggests relevant documents for you. That is really a good tool to know about. Quick facts is essentially a condensed, even quicker version of American fact finder. That can be helpful as well. There is something else that exists. The census used to publish it called the statistical abstract of the United States. Apparently, that has been discontinued. I just learned this before the webinar but if you do ‑‑ that was recently discontinued. But if you do need to get some statistics for previous decades you might want to go in here and you can find that in


And another website we don't have a lot of time to go in is fed stats. That is a general portal for statistics produced by the government. And down here at the bottom of the slide I linked to your statistics and data guide. If you have more information on ‑‑ if you want more information on stats we have information on statistics and data by subject and that is a good guide to look at if you are starting to look at statistics.


Now we will go through the branches of government and talk about the most important websites for each. The first is the executive branch and the first website is In we will not go there today. It is not that useful. Its best use is as a portal to other branches and agencies to the government. Even still, I think is preferable for that purpose.

We will just skip to federal register. The federal register on the other hand is extremely important and helpful. Let's see. So if you are not familiar with the federal register, it is the official daily publication for the Federal Government for its rules, proposed rules and notices as well as executive orders and other presidential documents. In other words, anything that you were perhaps thinking you could or should get from you should probably come here instead.

The Federal Register announces ongoing activities of agencies and notifies you when you comment on a proposed regulation which is really good to know about.

Once a rule is issued in the form of a final regulation, the regulation is then codified in what is known as the code of federal regulations which we referred to earlier.

When you come here, you kind of get a breakdown of today's issue. Again, this is published daily. So when you come here, you will be able to see what is going on today. Thinks are constantly happening with regulations. 70 documents went through change, 60 notices, 8 proposed rules and etc.

Up here at the tab is where you will navigate. Sections breaks it down into various topics. Money, environment, world, science and technology, business and industry and health and public welfare. You can get started if you are just starting to browse for information you can start here.

You can come to browse also, and you will be able to browse by agency or by topics so that can be good.

The search feature. The best feature under search is this Federal Regulations index. You can use this tool to see how many documents each governmental body has published in this calendar year and how to access them.

And then finally over here we have this tab for reader aids. This is where I would recommend you come if you come back to and have questions on how to use it. Everything you can do on these reader aids are user friendly and have a lot of great information.

Okay. And so of course you can search on this website as well. I will just do a quick search here. I will search for immigration and California. From that search we will get 1,062 results. This is what the results page looks like. As you can see over on the left you have your limiting options. You can limit to those documents published in the last 30 days, 90 days, last year. You can limit by the type of documents so there is different types. Or the agency that it is issuing from can run it by topic. So there is lots of options there. And then again there is an advanced search option up here, but this is most helpful when you know more or less exactly what you are looking for. If you are coming here just to browse I recommend using that simple search we used a moment ago.

Again, with these results you are going to see your search terms highlighted whenever they appear in the text of those documents. I know we are going fast, guys. Thanks for hanging in there. We have a lot to cover. is another good site. That site allows you to comment on proposed changes to regulations or proposed regulations. That is really good to know about. It is good place to go to make your voice heard. But Federal Register is more appropriate for actual research.

Moving along to the legislative branch and the first website you should be aware of is I am glad they made the name change. Used to be but they changed over to which is more intuitive. is where you will find the text of actual bills, resolutions, bill summaries, the status of bills, where they are in the legislative process, congressional records, roll call votes, a bunch of different types of information here.

We don't really have time to go into the citation format. We have been talking about ways to get around using those very complicated citations. Usually you can find what you are looking for without getting into the nitty‑gritty. If you need help finding government documents based on one of these citations, please get in touch with us at the library. On the other hand, if you need help citing the documents the writing center is your best bet.

This is This is where you will do any searching on Up here you can see the different options. For government web sites I usually recommend the simple search because sometimes the advance search is so complex it can be a bit overwhelming.

And again, like on Federal Register, it tells you more or less what is going on in Congress, what resolutions are being voted on, etc. But we are just going to do a quick search, so I can show you what the results screen is going to look like. So I searched for immigration and health care. We got 111 results. You have all these ways you can limit your search over here and this is how you tell which provides access to a lot of content which kinds of documents you are especially interested in. You can even limit by the Congress that acted on these topics. You can search by the status or the subject area. So there is really lots of ways to search over here. One nice thing about when you are looking at your results, first of all, it is going to tell you what kind of document it is up front and center. It says bill right here. Then comes the confusing name. H.R.3351 and it gives you the common name under that. Emergency Nursing Supply Relief Act of 2017 and it gives you the sponsors. And at the bottom it has this tracker feature which tells you where this bill is in the legislative process. As we can see in the first result, this bill has just been introduced to Congress. So it will go to the House, and then it will go to the Senate, and then the president and finally if it is lucky it will become a law and that tracker feature will indicate that.

And since we are running short on time, so I am going to skip ahead. I want to mention ORLC. We don't have time to go to it right now. But this is a more user‑friendly site to search the U.S. code. And the U.S. code is that publication that all of our laws and statutes eventually are published into. So we saw how we could do that in FDSYS. But ORLC, their website is just a little more user‑friendly I would argue. It is simpler. Go ahead and check that out if you need to refer to the U.S. code.

Finally, we have the judicial branch and the main site for that is and in my opinion, it is not the most intuitive site and not geared as much toward resource as some of these other sites are. That being said, you can find good information. You can find biographies of the current justices, and you can find opinions and they are eventually published in what are called U.S. reports and each volume of U.S. reports is going to have a unique number. What else did I want to show here? I am trying to pick and choose what I show you. You can find recent decisions or full text publications. You can find that on this website. And then up here is where you will do all of your searching. This link right here search tips is really helpful on this website. It will tell you exactly how to search to get the best results. All right. What ‑‑

>> is the other website for judicial government documents at the federal level. We really don't have too much time here, but I think this is a more user‑friendly site. It is much more focused on ‑‑ or I should say it also has a focus on logistical matters. You will find information on jury duty or how to find a courthouse. You will find information on the different types of cases. But it also includes up here court record. You can find a court record this way. This tool that they have find a case is called PACER. It has statistics and reports up here. And rules and policy over here. For the purpose of research, I think the last three tabs are going to be the most helpful.

As you can see they have hidden the search box up here, but you can search on this site from that search box.

Other resources:  Google and Wikipedia and general searching can be good for finding government documents. Don't be afraid to find these resources. Especially if you have an incomplete citation. You can use the internet to fill in the gaps of what you don't know about a specific government documents and then you can use that information to go track it down on an official government website. Most of the time when you use Google or Wikipedia they are not going to provide access to the full text of those government documents. That is one reason why you would need to go to a government website to get that. There are other potentially useful web sites that report on government activity and many of them are non‑governmental organizations or NGOs

. Examples of that are the bill and Melinda Gates foundation and such. You are free to refer to these sources but you to do so it caution since they are not government publications they don't carry the same guarantee of authority or authenticity. The general rule for using internet web sites or information you find on the internet in your research is that dot gov equals suitable for scholarly research. You can feel confident in those web sites that end in dot gov. Dot org is a bit of a gray area. It is a bit questionable. They are more prone to bias. That being said, it doesn't mean you cannot use information from those sites, but you need to do so with caution. And finally dot com is pretty much not suitable for scholarly research.

And then I included this resource link and that links to a page that I maintain. There you will find the international government websites we don't have time to go into today.

And I highlighted the Federal Depository Libraries. This used to be where you had to go to goat access to government documents. They still do exist. As I said before, especially for older material, you might need to go to one of these and they are open to the public and have librarians on staff to help you find exactly what you are looking for.

That concludes this whirlwind tour of government web sites. I hope you feel at least slightly more confidant navigating these sites and finding the information you looking for. Again, there are hundreds of other government web sites that we did not get to talk about and there are likely government web sites that are very specific to your research topic. So if you ever need help finding those web sites, feel free to get in touch with us. You should have a list of at least some government web sites in the research home page for your subject area. If you are not sure what that is let nee just ‑‑WO ‑‑ let me just pop over to show you. This is our home Paige which is newly redesigned, so we are still getting used to it. Come here and click on select a subject and these are how you research those homepages. They have a ton of information. Right here is other things that might be helpful. A link to the Webinar archive and quick answers is a really good way to get help when you need it.

But for anything that you can't find the answer to, please feel free to get in touch with us. You can do so using this ask a librarian feature. You can call in a question. You can chat with us during specific hours. Or you can e‑mail a question in. We will get back to you usually within a day. And then for those of you who are doctoral‑level students you have the option of scheduling capstone appointments with a librarian. You can sit down with an expert in your area and get individualized help on your research topic.

With all that, I want to say thank you very much for attending. Now I will ask Amanda if we have any questions.

>> No, we didn't have any questions to share with the group today.

>> Okay. Well then, I guess I just explained everything so well that there is no questions and that is perfectly fine. But if you do find yourself, as I said before, once you go back through this presentation and start exploring some of these web sites, for any questions, or difficulties you encounter feel free to reach out to us. That is what we are here for. So if there are no questions then I am going to go ahead and close the session. I just want to say thank you again for attending. Good luck with your research.


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Created June 2018 by Walden University Library