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Finding Government Documents: Getting Started

What are government documents?


The phrase "government documents" refers to print materials produced by federal, state, and local governments, as well as international organizations and agencies.

Government documents come in a variety of forms, including books, pamphlets, posters, newsletters, signs, and even coloring books!

Printed government documents are available, often for free, from the goverrnment. Many of these documents are also available online.


What are government documents good for?

The federal and state governments publish information on a wide variety of topics, particularly in the sciences and social sciences.  Consider using government documents for information in these areas of research:

  • Statistics: The government publishes a huge amount of statistics on every conceivable subject. For more on statistics, take a look at our Statistics & Data subject guide.
  • Social Issues: Examples include crime, health, culture, or education.
  • Legal Research: If you need to track legislation or look up laws or court cases, then you'll be using government documents.  For more information on this topic, use our Legal Research subject guide.
  • History: There is much government information of interest to students of both Maine and American history.  Primary sources such as photographs and other images are very useful for history projects.
  • Scientific Research: Government agencies spend billions of dollars each year on scientific research.  Many reports on this research are available online and for free.