Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

English 301 - Fall 2020 - Prof. Coleman


Government publications (or government documents) are great sources for scholarly work. The US government publishes all sorts of things, from congressional hearings, to agency reports - even comic books!

There are government publications at all levels of government for all kinds of topics - science, social sciences, even the humanities 

About Government Documents: Who creates government information? Where does it come from?

Levels of Government




Multi-State also, The Council of State Governments

United States


Other Governments

International Organizations


Branches of Government (United States)






Rhetorical Conventions of Government Information

Government information can be provocative, deliberative, official, evaluative, and more. Examples:

  • Testimony, in congressional hearings - arguments, persuasion, claims, positions
  • Statistics and data (and not just from the Census!) - numbers to help make your case
  • Investigations - 
  • Reports and Updates


Finding Government Documents in Search It

Our library catalog, Search It, is a good place to start looking for government publications, but not the only one! This screencast will walk you through the basics. Note:

  • You can use the TYPE filter to narrow down to government publications
  • You can also look under the AUTHOR filter to see what agencies have published documents that show up in your results
  • Government documents can be in print, in microform, or online. If its not online, do a quick search of the title (in quotation marks to search for it as a phrase) and you may find it online.
  • Be sure to look at the full Search It record for any title you are interested in. It will give you basic information about what is in the document (and also relevant subject terms that you can use to find more information on your topic)

Finding Government Information in Government Sites and Databases

Government documents can be found all over the web. It can be helpful sometimes to do a site search, i.e. something like this: comic books

Find more guides to government information here at WSU by looking for the Government Information section of our WSU Libraries Resource Guides by Subject portion of the library website. You can click the link above, or from the library homepage click on the Subject Guides link.

Activity: Evaluating Government Documents

Chose one of the documents linked below to evaluate. You can either do it in this online form or you can use VoiceThread (instructions below). Its due by midnight on 10/12/2020.

1. Log in to VoiceThread (log in link is in the upper right corner of the page) - I'll do a screencast on ths;s I think I figured how to cover multiple silides

2. Click on CREATE (upper right corner)

3. Click on the center "Add Media" link (you can also drag in a file)

4. It will give you options: My Computer, etc. Select URL and paste in the link for one of the documents below. You might find it quicker to download the document PDF and then upload it. 

5. It will prompt you to title your VoiceThread - Please give in the title: English 301-your class (select 10am,11am or 1pm)-Your last name and tag it WSUColemanClass(10am/11am/or 1pm)

6. it will take a few minutes for the document to load (these are big PDFs!),. Go do something else and come back to it! OR - do the short (12 pages ) one on polyvictimization, 

Once loaded, please review and scan the document and respond to these questions using the comment. Each page of the document  will be a slide, so you can skim through them as you respond to the prompts. Mouseover the bottom of the first slide and you will see a + button. Use it to record an audio comment. Unfortunately you can only record comments for one slide at a time :-(  Use the arrows at the bottom to move between slides. The hamburger menu in the upper left corner will let you edit/add to your VoiceThread project, and get a link to share with me by emailing me at If you give me commenting permissions, I will respond to your VoiceThread!

  • Brief document title and date
  • What is the authoring agency/sub-agency? What branch of government is it from?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What characteristics and features of this document might make it useful for a research paper that you had to write on the topic of the document?
  • Would you say this is a reliable source? Why or why not? 
WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us