Government information exists in abundance on the Internet; nearly every site has a link to federal government sources. With thousands of sites to choose from, where does one begin? Or, more appropriately, how does one begin?
Most government information seekers fall into three broad--yet often overlapping--categories: they are searching for a specific document; they are searching for information on a particular subject; or they are searching for information by a particular government agency.
Most sites have U.S. government information organized by subject, federal agency, or both. In subject-oriented menus, most often government information is listed under a variety of subject areas, rather being contained in one "government" category. Related topics that often include a large number of federal sites are demographics, economics, health and medicine, international affairs, politics, and law. Many foreign government sites can be found under country categories, as well as international headings.
When searching for information from a particular federal agency, the best strategy is to begin with an agency-oriented menu, which lists all the branches and departments of the government in alphabetic order.
When searching for a particular document, limit your search to a particular database when possible. If a likely source cannot be easily determined, a web-wide search will yield the best results.
There are numerous comprehensive directories and guides to government information on the Internet. Rather than a thorough guide, what is presented here is a brief description of a few select sites that are good places to begin a search for government information.
Kenyon's KCInfo and WWW Information Resources Home Page
(Option F , "Internet and Electronic Resources" from the library catalog's main menu)
Our own gopher and www menus are the logical first place to look. Links to all the sites mentioned below can be found here, as well as much, much more.
Larry's InfoPower Pages
Constructed by a government documents librarian, this home page is an excellent beginning point. Provides both subject-based and agency-based links to a vast number of sites, is well-organized, and kept current. An excellent collection of annotated URL lists by subject can also be found here.
Now available as a WWW site, FedWorld provides access to virtually all the federal agency sites, through a broad subject-based menu. It includes abstracts of popular documents, ordering information, and access to the NTIS bibliographic database. The telnet site, accessible through the WWW link, provides access to additional dial-up BBS's maintained by government agencies.
Federal Web Locator Service at Villanova University
One of the biggest and best sources U.S. government information on the Internet, arranged by federal agencies.
University of Michigan Document Center
Excellent comprehensive site for government information, including selected state, local and foreign governments. Of particular interest is "Documents in the News", which provides links to full-text documents relating to current hot topics. It is arranged broadly by federal, state, and international sources, rather than by subject or government agency.
RiceInfo at Rice University
Extensive collection of gopher links to federal information, arranged alphabetically under the main menu heading "Government, Political Science, and Law".
World Wide Web Virtual Library
An impressive collection of links to government information. The main menu is subject-based, while the "U.S. Federal Government Agencies" and "U.S. Government Information Sources" options both include extensive menus arranged by federal agency. The first includes a list of all federal agencies, with hypertext links to those that currently have Internet sites available, which proves useful in determining whether a particular agency has a server.
Government Information Locator Service (GILS)
Locator service mandated by the NII legislation; still under construction, but inspires to be the "Mother of All Home Pages" for government information when it's fully up and running.
The following are a few selected sites that excellent starting points, while focussing on a particular topic. There are hundreds of similar sites catered to specific areas of interest. This is simply a sampling of what one may find:
Thomas Legislative Server
Located at the Library of Congress, Thomas provides slick, searchable access to selected full-text legislation, including congressional bills, the Federal Register, and Congressional Record, as well as pointers to the White House and congressional servers.
U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library
Extremely comprehensive collection of over 1,600 links--and growing--to law-related resources on the Internet. Includes the full-text of congressional hearings, Presidential documents, state laws, treaties, and much more. Arranged by agency and subject.
IANWeb--The International Affairs Network
Part of the WWW Virtual Library, this is an excellent link to documents on International Affairs. Arranged by subject, geographic area, and source.
DOSFAN (Department of State Foreign Affairs Network)
A good starting point for current foreign policy, this site provides full-text of State Department publications, including press releases and treaties.
Documents Room at the University of Kansas
Nice collection of selected historic U.S. documents, organized by historic periods, beginning with the Colonial Period. Also includes selected constitutions of foreign countries.
Federal Government Document Depository LIbraries
With 1,400 sites throughout the United States, depository libraries hold the largest collection of full-text government documents, and related research tools, in print, microfiche and electronic formats; most cannot yet be found on the Internet. User-friendly interface, too! :)
The following are two highly recommended comprehensive guides to government information on the Internet:
Larry's Best of the Best URLs, by Larry Schankman, Mansfield University
Arranged in sections by subject, this guide can be downloaded as one large guide, or as smaller subject guides.
U.S. Federal Government Information on the Internet, by Maggie Parhamovich, University of Nevada Las Vegas.
This extensive guide lists both subjects and agencies alphabetically. Includes a list of discussion lists for government documents and related topics.