Public administration and policy: Governments, nonprofits, think-tanks
What's on this page
This page highlights key access points to US federal and state government information; intergovernmental, nongovermental, and nonprofit organizations; and portals to policy writing, think tanks, and other "gray literature."
US federal government information sources
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 ... but didn't catalog most of them . The SuDoc number is crucial for getting your hands on physical government publications in the library, from library storage, or via ILLiad. Most of our printed federal publications are arranged by SuDoc number on the 5th floor of Newman Library. Don't be reluctant to ask a librarian for help.
Records in the GPO catalog, GovInfo,gov, and Voxgov databases should provide SuDoc class numbers back to the 1970s-80s.
The Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, 1895-1976 database and the print index volumes of "MoCat" near the Docs stacks will help you find older, uncataloged publications' SuDoc numbers so you can request them from library storage or via ILLiad.
- VoxGovVoxGov is an interesting application of “big data” to tracking the outputs – traditional documents and also official social media -- of persons and agencies of the US government. Coverage of some official print outputs extends back to the late 1970s. The content is updated every 15 minutes. Visualizations are simple but effective. The advanced search interface gives a sense of the scope of coverage and the many dimensions for filtering and comparing the data. You can also browse by policy categories, compare members of Congress, and track outputs from the last presidential, gubernatorial, and congressional elections.
- UK Government Web Archive has a similar function to "capture, preserve, and make accessible UK central government information published on the web. The web archive includes videos, tweets, images and websites dating from 1996 to present.." From the UK National Archives.
- U.S. Government Information: Weekly Roundup (UC San Diego)This attempt to provide current awareness of federal government reports and activities" is part of a very extensive, carefully curated portal to information resources by and about the federal government. Useful complement to the fast, powerful VoxGov database.
- GPO Monthly CatalogA somewhat more user-friendly version of the official Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) on the same WorldCat interface as VT Discovery Search. Covers all types of U.S. government documents, including Congressional reports, hearings, debates, and records; judiciary materials; and documents issued by executive departments (Defense, State, Labor, Office of the President, etc.). Includes a bibliographic citation in each record. 1976-present.
- Find older publications: Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, 1895-1976.
- Govinfo: Discover US Government Information Govinfo provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the US federal government. When you search the content available on Govinfo, you will be able to download the full text of publications. But you won’t see records for documents that are not stored on Govinfo -- use either version of the GPO Catalog of Publications to discover those other documents. Govinfo has an extensive set of how-to video tutorials.
- SAM.gov (from US General Services Administration) US government system for discovering "contract opportunities" (formerly FBO.gov); "assistance" ( formerly CFDA.gov: descriptions of federal grants/awards/loans of all sorts, not only social welfare); reports and data about grants and contracts awarded and also about "entities" seeking or receiving them; wage determinations (was WDOL.gov); and more. Portions require registration to access.
- HathiTrust The HathiTrust Digital Library contains over 17 million scanned items and over six billion pages of scanned books, government documents, and other materials from academic and research libraries. Nearly 40% of Hathi content is in the public domain and accessible to you. Read onscreen or download book scans (use the yellow Log In button and select Virginia Tech as your "partner institution.") Most of the book scans were made available by Internet Archive and Google Book, with regular library cataloging added. Content is available in several image formats, text, and PDF. Covers 1200s-present. Affiliated HathiTrust Research Center enables computational analysis of works in the HathiTrust Digital Library (HTDL) to facilitate nonprofit research and educational uses of the collection. .
- HeinOnline U.S. Congressional Documents Library This collection features documents spanning the legislative and oversight functions of the Congress: Congressional Record (including its predecessors, Annals of Congress [1789-1824], Register of Debates [1824-1837] Congressional Globe [1833-1873]), Congressional Budget Office, selected CRS Reports [Congressional Research Service],Congressional Hearings, Committee Prints, Rules & Precedents, and additional primary sources, bibliographies, and manuals. Many Hein topical collections include these document types.The HeinOnline Portal offers a large and wide-ranging collection of historical and contemporary legal materials, including codes, treaties, constitutions, topical collections of historical documents, law reviews, and legal treatises from the US, Canada, and the UK.
- Congress.gov The official website for U.S. federal legislative information. The site provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public. Replaced the THOMAS congressional portal, which was shut down in summer 2016. Congressional documents from the first 100 years of the U.S. Congress (1774-1875) can be accessed through A Century of Lawmaking.
- Congressional Serial Set (from ProQuest) Don’t be misled by the title: as the official historical record of the U.S. government, these resources are essential for any historical, political, or cultural research of the United States. The US Congressional Serial Set(incorporating American State Papers,1789-1838, and maps,1789-1969) includes documents on virtually every topic the US Congress has taken an interest in – which can be just about anything anywhere in the world -- since 1789 both for law-making and for oversight of executive-branch agencies: congressional reports on public and private legislation considered during each Congress (example); reports of investigations commissioned or conducted by Congress or its parts (example); reports from federal executive agencies (including land surveys, research and statistical publications, and reports of scientific investigations and explorations) submitted to Congress (example); budgets of the United States (since 1923) (example); treaties presented to the Senate (since 1979) (example); and reports and other documents of select nongovernmental organizations (example), from the Red Cross to the Smithsonian and the American Legion to the American Historical Association. Comprising only documents Congress has declared to be particularly important, the Serial Set does not (usually) include text of bills and resolutions, hearings, nor committee prints. See ProQuest's Serial Set guide. Alternative access to the Serials Set: HeinOnline. Our existing Hein databases have always contained substantial portions of the Serial Set, including the American State Papers, comprehensive coverage of Foreign Relations of the United States, and thousands of House and Senate reports and documents inside compiled federal legislative histories.
US state government information sources
- Council of State Governments: Our Work ('Book of the States' etc)Portal to products and services from CSG’s policy group: data and analyses from the Book of the States, documents of national and regional meetings, fact sheets, interactive websites, interstate compact legislation, policy projects assisting states in the creation of policy, and numerous educational efforts tied to key issues.
- State Agencies' Databases Portal to searchable, publicly accessible state-level information. Browse either by state or by agency/policy categories. Maintained as a volunteer project by GODORT, an organization of government-information librarians. Here are shortcuts for Virginia and adjacent jurisdictions: Virginia Maryland District of Columbia North Carolina Tennessee Kentucky West Virginia
- OpenStates "Open States strives to improve civic engagement at the state level by providing data and tools regarding state legislatures" by aggregating legislative information from official sources in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. In addition to state-by-state searching through the website, researchers can acquire legislative data through an API and bulk download.
Official data portals for Virginia and nearby states
- Virginia Open Data Portal
- Virginia Geographic Information Network
- Maryland's Open Data Portal
- Maryland's Mapping and GIS Data Portal
- Open Data DC
- DC Map Data
- LINC: Log Into North Carolina
- NC OneMap
- Tennessee Open Data Portal
- Transparent Tennessee OpenMaps
- TNMap Open Data Portal
- [Kentucky] KyGovMaps Open Data Portal
- Map West Virginia
- WV State GIS Data Clearinghouse
- Library of Virginia Digital Collections The Library of Virginia provides digitized Virginia and local government publications and records, along with many other primary-source materials. Collection of particular interest for politics/policy research: State Government Publications State Archives Collections County & City Records. Use the advanced search function, as the individual collections can only be browsed.
- Policy CommonsThe "cities" module in Policy Commons preserves the full text of over five million pages of surveys, budgets, statistical records, case studies, planning documents, training manuals, policy guidelines, reports, and news from the 500 largest cities in North America. It also includes select materials from hundreds of related agencies and non-governmental organizations.
Find out about nonprofits
- Foundation Directory OnlineSearch for information about over 100,000 foundations, corporate giving programs, and grantmaking public charities, or for information about nearly half a million grants. Parent organization, Foundation Center, also provides extensive free, online information about funding and managing nonprofit organizations. 2001-present.
- National Center for Charitable StatisticsThis Urban Institute project aims to develop and disseminate high quality data on nonprofit organizations and their activities for use in research on the relationships between the nonprofit sector, government, the commercial sector, and the broader civil society.
- Guidestar.org Freely accessible version of "the world's largest source of information on nonprofit organizations" including tax filings and other financials and self-reported information about programs and key personnel. Requires creating a personal account.
- Nonprofit Explorer from ProPublica Nonprofit Explorer provides data from organizations declared exempt from US federal taxation. Searchable by state, nonprofit category, and organization type under IRS classifications. Use this database to view summaries of 3 million tax returns from tax-exempt organizations and see financial details such as their executive compensation and revenue and expenses. You can browse IRS data released since 2013 and access more than 14 million tax filing documents that may go back as far as 2001.
- Charities Bureau (New York State Attorney General) CharitiesNYS contains searchable registry of financial reports of foundations and other charities active in New York State, guidance for those who manage charities and solicit charitable contributions, tips for those considering donating to charity, and a directory to websites relevant to operating and researching nonprofit organizations.
- Charity NavigatorCharity Navigator's rating system examines each charity's financial health, accountability & transparency and results reporting. Charity Navigator says it is the US's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, but it is not well-suited for historical information.
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.
- Policy CommonsPolicy Commons is a global portal to "gray literature" -- research publications such as reports, briefs, analyses, working papers, and datasets done to academic standards but not peer-reviewed -- produced by university research centers, "think tanks," consultancies, governments from national to local, inter- and non-governmental agencies, interest groups, and more. Often problem-centered and solution-oriented, these publications can fill the gap between journalism and traditional scholarly publications.
- Think Tank Search (Harvard)Think Tank Search is a custom Google search of over 670 institutions that generate public policy research, analysis, and activity. These sites are affiliated with universities, governments, advocacy groups, foundations, and non-governmental organizations that generate public policy research, analysis, and activity. Inclusion is based upon the relevancy of subject area to research and teaching at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, the availability of the think tank’s research in full-text on the website, and the think tank’s reputation and influence upon policy making. The list represents a mixture of partisan and non-partisan think tanks. Site includes browseable directory of the think tanks, US and non-US as well as guidance on evaluating think tank research.
- American Policy DirectoryInterest- and advocacy groups often issue reports and and position papers on public policies. This list of links to such groups is organized by broad theme, then by names of organizations addressing that domain. From the University of Oregon Libraries.
- IssueLab Free access to thousands of case studies, evaluations, white papers, issue briefs, and other kinds of "gray literature" research into social problems, primarily in the US. Provided by Candid, a service of the Foundation Center, to "gather, index, and share the collective intelligence of the social sector," IssueLab emphasizes research funded by philanthropic institutions.
- Find Policy Organized into broad topical areas, Find Policy is a specialized search engine specifically for outputs of selected, leading policy research organizations that work in each area. More Search option allows searching regarding particular countries and global regions.
- Security Studies from JSTOR Security Studies is a topical collection that “looks at security studies through a broad lens, encompassing research on international security and peace and conflict studies from all corners of the globe “ It includes content drawn from journals and ebooks already in JSTOR and adds research reports and periodicals added specifically for this collection. Browseable by topic and searchable (including image searching). Bookmark this link. JSTOR's topical collections like this can be difficult to find in the regular JSTOR interface. For more about this collection, including basic JSTOR tips and tricks, see JSTOR’s Security Studies libguide.
- Homeland Security Digital Library HSDL is a collection of documents related to homeland security policy, strategy, and disaster management from a wide variety of sources. These include documents from federal, state, tribal, and local government agencies, professional organizations, think tanks, academic institutions, and international governing bodies. 1941-present. HSDL is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Preparedness Directorate, FEMA and the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security. Create an individual account with your VT email address if you wish to access additional HSDL researcher content. See also Essays in HSDL's On the Homefront blog and Greta's Gouge weekly current-awareness posting of papers and articles pertaining to conflict, national security, and defense; arranged by source. Compiled by Greta Marlatt, HSDL content manager at US Naval Postgraduate School.
- Open Think Tank Directory A global collection of more than 3,000 think tanks and related organizations. Menus help you focus by region, country, and/or topic; also searchable.
Preprints, conference proceedings
- OSF PreprintsSearch across more than 25 open access preprint repositories containing more than 2 million articles and conference papers. Strong STEM coverage, but fields also include social sciences, law, business, architecture, arts and humanities.
- Social Science Research NetworkSocial Science Research Network indexes citation, abstracts, and some full text of pre-prints and other scholarly research papers.
- APSA Preprints APSA Preprints is a free-to-access prepublication platform dedicated to working papers, posters, and other early research outputs in political science and related disciplines. Preprints had not undergone peer review when submitted to APSA Preprints, though versions may subsequently have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. It was developed through a collaboration of the American Political Science Association and Cambridge University Press and built on the "Cambridge Open Engage" platform.
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.
- List of Intergovernmental organizations (IGOs)Comprehensive directory to the websites of intergovernmental organizations, including units of the United Nations and the European Union, from the library at Northwestern University
- UIA Open YearbookProfiles of non-profit organizations working worldwide in all fields of activity, often partnered with intergovernmental organizations. The information contained in the profiles and search functionality of this free service are limited. From the Union of International Associations.
- UNESCO Database of Non-Governmental Organizations, organizes the UIA directory profiles according to the UN Sustainable Development Goals