Citing Government Information
The primary purpose of a citation, either used as a footnote or in a bibliography, is to make it possible for someone reading your paper to be able to find your sources. This hypothetical reader may want to verify your information, follow up on your research, or just learn more about the subject. A secondary purpose for a citation is to give credit where credit is due. Therefore, it is important that you provide:
- enough information in your citation so that someone else can locate the source
- the information in a consistent format that someone else can use.
Government documents can be particularly difficult publications to cite because they do not always include the usual bibliographic information, such as author, publisher, and even date. The following examples, which are based on The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources: A Manual for Writers and Librarians (Revised Edition), are provided to act as a guide for creating your own bibliographies.
Basic Citation Format
The basic citation for a book consists of:
Issuing Agency. Title by author. Edition. Place: Publisher, Date. (Series). (Notes including SuDoc number).
U.S. Department of Education. National Institute of Postsecondary Education, Libraries, and Lifelong Learning. Women's Colleges in the United States: History, Issues, and Challenges by Irene Harwarth et al. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1997. (ED 1.302:W 84/4).
Smithsonian Institution. Oligocene Echinoids of North Carolina by Porter M. Kier. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997. (Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology No. 83). (SI 1.30:83).
For a journal/magazine/periodical article, the basic form is:
Author. "Article Title," Periodical Title Volume:Issue (Date) Page Numbers. (Notes including SuDoc number).
Schrammel, Kurt. "Comparing the Labor Market Success of Young Adults from Two Generations," Monthly Labor Review 121:2 (February 1998) 3-9.
"Tackling Ticks that Spread Lyme Disease," Agricultural Research 46:3 (March 1998) 22-24. (A 77.12:46/3).
Formatting citations for Web pages and other electronic documents is less official, but we recommend the following:
Issuing Agency. Title. (Type of medium). Edition. Place: Publisher (if other than the issuing agency), Date. Available: URL. Referenced: Date.
or, for CD-ROMs and other tangible data products,
Issuing Agency. Title. Available on: Issuing Agency (if different). Title. (Type of medium). Edition. Place: Publisher (if different), Date. (Series). (Notes including SuDoc number).
Congressional Budget Office. Water Use Conflicts in the West: Implications of Reforming the Bureau of Reclamation's Water Supply Policies. (Online). August 1997. Available: http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/wateruse.pdf. Referenced: May 20, 1998.
United States. Senate. Committee on Environment and Public Works. Subcommittee on Clean Air, Wetlands, Private Property and Nuclear Safety. Ozone and Particulate Matter Research Act of 1997 Hearings, 22 October 1997. (Online). Government Printing Office, 1998. Available: https://www.congress.gov/bill/105th-congress/senate-bill/1084. Referenced: May 20, 1998.
U.S. International Trade Administration. A Basic Guide to Exporting, 1992. Available on: U.S. Department of Commerce. Economics and Statistics Administration. Office of Business Analysis. NTDB: National Trade Data Bank. (CD-ROM). Washington, March 1998. (C 1.88:998/3)
If you need more examples of citations to government information, check out the following:
- Uncle Sam: Brief Guide to Citing Government Publications
- Based on Chicago/Turabian standard note/bibliographic style (not parenthetical/reference list style). Discusses basic citation format, using the issuing agency as author, Congress as author, certain special examples, state data center publications, microform collections, and electronic information including compact discs and data files as well as online sources. Includes examples.
- Chicago-Style Citation Quick Guide for Government Documents
- Short guide from Bowdoin College Library in 2013.
- Guide to Citing Government Information Sources (Modern Language Association Style)
- Examples of how to cite selected types of reports and legal documents. From the University of Nevada, Reno.
- How to Cite US Government Documents in MLA, APA Citation Style
- Excellent guide for general government publications. Suggests examples when specific rules do not exist for some types of documents. From Cornell University Library.
- Cite Source
- General guide to citation styles for Chicago, APA, MLA, etc. Some citation examples are for government information. From Trinity College Library.
- Build APA or MLA style citations using a template from Arizona State University.
- Citing Government Publications (General Guidelines)
- From the University of North Texas Libraries.
- Guide: Citing U.S. Government Publications
- General guidelines from Indiana University, Bloomington.
- The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources: A Manual for Writers & Librarians by Diane L. Gardner, Diane H. Smith. Revised edition. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service, 1993.
- J9.5.G37 1993 (Reference)
- Guide to citing print and electronic government information. Covers federal, state, international, and foreign governments, and includes many examples. From the American Library Association, Government Documents Round Table.
- The BlueBook: A Uniform System of Citation
- KF 245 .B58 (Reference; Gov Docs Reference)
- The authoritative guide for citing legal materials
For general help with all citations, not just government information, see Citation Basics.