International relations & security: Policy, law, government/ IGO/ NGO publications

Not all important literature is in peer-reviewed journals

This page identifies tools for finding four types of literature that can be important to political scientists: policy analyses and other "gray literature" from research institutes and professional associations; legal literature (laws and regulations; cases; legal scholarship);  government publications (US domestic and US foreign relations, and intergovernmental and nongovernment association publications.

Think tanks, policy papers, "gray literature"

Professors and other people with advanced academic degrees present their expertise in other settings beside peer-reviewed journals and scholarly books.  They may produce reports and analyses for governments, non-profit organizations, corporations, and all sorts of research institutes; they also distribute research for comment at academic conferences.  While these sources are often created with academic rigor, they commonly do not go through full peer review before publication.  Nonetheless, especially regarding recent events and hot topics in politics and policy, such "gray literature" can be important bridges between journalism and traditional academic publications. 

US federal and state government information sources

US Government Publishing Office

By law, the US Government Publishing Office is the "official, digital, and secure source for producing, protecting, preserving, and distributing the official publications and information products of the federal government'" making it the world's largest publisher. To help locate and provide access to its vast output, "GPO aims to provide a comprehensive index of every document issued or published by a department, bureau, or office not confidential in character."

Most GPO publications have been published online since the late 1990s (and are listed in our library's Discovery service), and there has been extensive digitization of older documents by government agencies, by commercial database vendors (Voxgov, HeinOnline, ProQuest, Readex), and by nonprofits (LLMC-Digital, HathiTrust, Internet Archive, universities). 

For most of a century, Virginia Tech automatically received most GPO output in print "docs," identified by GPO's unique "SuDoc" call number system.  Knowing the SuDoc number of an older federal publication can be crucial for getting your hands on government publications in our collection or via ILLiad.  Records in the GPO catalog (see below), GovInfo,gov, and Voxgov will provide SuDoc class numbers. It's common for an online version of government publication series to have the same basic SuDoc number as its first print issue. Don't be reluctant to ask a librarian for help crossing that print-online divide.

Legal databases

Comparative law: primary sources

Intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations

Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and private, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) often partner to address social, environmental, economic, technical, and human rights issues.  For research on topics on transnational and international concern, it is often appropriate to search both kinds of entities, using the same search terms.

IGO Custom Search Engine

The IGO Custom Search Engine searches across hundreds of IGO websites, including the United Nations, World Bank, UN Development Program (UNDP), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Union, the Asian Development Bank, and many others.

NGO Custom Search Engine

Like its IGO counterpart, use the NGO Custom Search Engine search across hundreds of NGO websites worldwide.

These Google Custom Search Engines (CSE) are a project of the International Documents Taskforce (IDTF) of the American Library Association (ALA). For more background on this project, including links to the IGo and NGO lists included in these searches, please see the IDTF wiki.

US foreign relations information