Urban affairs & planning: Government, 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.
US state government information sources
Acquiring records under state open records/open meetings laws
State laws vary from one another and from the federal Freedom of Information Act. The following guides have different strengths; compare their coverage before requesting a state or local record.
- Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Open Government Guide provides detailed descriptions of the coverage of each state's law.
- National Freedom of Information Coalition (University of Missouri) State Freedom of Information Laws includes sample request letters and summarizes resources for all US states.
Official numerical and geospatial data portals for Virginia and nearby states
- Virginia Open Data Portal
- Virginia Geographic Information Network (VGIN)
- Virginia View: Geospatial framework data for Virginia and beyond (VT)
- Maryland's Open Data Portal
- Maryland's Mapping and GIS Data Portal
- Open Data DC
- DC Map Data
- Map West Virginia
- WV State GIS Data Clearinghouse
- [Kentucky] KyGovMaps Open Data Portal
- Tennessee Open Data Portal
- Transparent Tennessee OpenMaps
- TNMap Open Data Portal
- LINC: Log Into North Carolina
- NC OneMap
Find out about nonprofits
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.
Preprints, conference proceedings
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.