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Mat-Su College: Writing

A guide for students taking Writing, particularly Writing 111, at Mat-Su College.

What is a government document?

Government documents are just what they sound like: documents published by a local, state, or federal government. Examples of government documents include Senate bills, reports published by government agencies like the FDA or EPA, and so on.

There are many government documents. Government documents are a good source of statistics and research.

Finding government documents on the open web

In general, recent government publications are freely available online. There are a two easy ways to find these. Each is outlined below.

The website is a search engine for US government websites. When you search with it, you search only government websites.

Google using advance searched techniques

You can use Google to find government documents if you use a few advanced features. Google allows you to limit your search to certain websites and to certain files.

To begin with, you can limit your searches to .gov sites (government sites) by adding to your search. If you wanted to search for government websites about water quality you could type water quality If you want to search just a single website, you can do that too, e.g., water quality

You can also use Google's advanced features to find PDFs on these sites, rather than just plain webpages. It can be good to limit your searches to PDFs because PDFs are how finished reports are often stored. You can use filetype:pdf to limit your search to PDFs.

So, to find PDFs on the site, your search might look like this: water quality filetype:pdf. (Screenshot below.)

Screenshot of google showing use of the filetype and site searching features

Finding government documents using QuickSearch

Another way to find government documents is to use the library's QuickSearch search tool.

From the Mat-Su College library homepage, enter your search terms into the QuickSearch box:

Quicksearch search box

We can limit our search results to governments. Do this by finding the "Government documents" checkbox in the "Content type" section on the left:

Content type limits, government documents checkbox

Now you are looking at government documents. Many can be viewed online. Others will be in libraries.