{ subscribe_url: '/share/sites/library-of-congress-blogs/law.php' }

Locating Congressional Documents: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists.

Congressional documents concern a wide variety of subjects and include all papers ordered printed by the House or Senate apart from congressional committee reports. As described by the Government Publishing Office (GPO), congressional documents “may include reports of executive departments and independent organizations, reports of special investigations made for Congress, and annual reports of non-governmental organizations.”  Researchers also frequently ask us for assistance in finding Senate treaty documents, which contain the “the text of a Treaty as it is submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification by the President of the United States.”  House and Senate document citations include the number of the Congress and the number of the document. For example, S.Doc. 114-15 indicates the fifteenth document from the 114th Congress. Similarly, an example of a Senate treaty document is Treaty Doc. 114-1.

Potomac Aqueduct, Georgetown abutment at Georgetown waterfront, Washington, District of Columbia. Drawing by Historic American Buildings Survey House Document 459 (1838). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.dc0967/photos.025248p

Potomac Aqueduct, Georgetown abutment at Georgetown waterfront, Washington, District of Columbia. Drawing by Historic American Buildings Survey House Document 459 (1838). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/hhh.dc0967/photos.025248p

Congress.gov - Congress.gov provides free access to full-text Senate treaty documents dating back to 1995. If you know the citation, you can search for it. If you do not have a citation, Congress.gov’s facets make it easy to browse for a treaty document. Facets available include Congress, status of a treaty document, and treaty topic. You can use the facets in combination with one another to quickly narrow down your results.

ProQuest CongressionalProQuest Congressional is a subscription database available at many law firms and law schools that  includes congressional documents dating back to 1817. To search for congressional documents, you can perform a basic search and limit your search to House and Senate document under document type. If you have a citation, click on “legislative and executive publications” at the top, then choose “search by number,” and “bibliographic citations.” Next, under publication number, use the drop-down to choose a House or Senate document or Treaty Document under “type,” select the Congress, and type in the publication number. If you scroll down, you can also look for congressional documents by inputting a U.S. Serial Set volume number.

ProQuest Legislative Insight – The ProQuest Legislative Insight subscription database is also available at many law schools and law firms, and allows you to type a citation to a public law, U.S. Statutes at Large citation, or enacted bill number, and retrieve a compiled legislative history that may include House and Senate documents.

FDSys – The Government Publishing Office site, FDSys, contains select congressional documents dating back to the 94th Congress (1975-1976).

U.S. Congressional Serial Set – The U.S. Congressional Serial Set includes a variety of information, including congressional documents. A citation to the U.S. Serial Set takes the form of a volume number. From there, you will then look for the relevant document number.  The U.S. Serial Set has a variety of access points, including subject, keyword, name, reported bill number indexes, and a sequential list of titles and reference information for documents for each session of Congress. To access the U.S. Serial Set in print or on microfiche, visit a Federal Government Depository Library near you.

Congressional Information Service (CIS) Resources – The Congressional Information Service (CIS) provides two resources that are likely of interest to researchers in this area.  First, the CIS Annual and the monthly publication, CIS Index to Publications of the U.S. Congress, which we have mentioned in previous legislative history-related posts, indexes and abstracts congressional publications, such as congressional documents, since 1970.  The CIS also produces the CIS Senate Executive Documents and Reports, which provides coverage of Senate treaty documents from 1817 to 1969.

Century of Lawmaking for a New NationCentury of Lawmaking for a New Nation contains the U.S. Serial Set, including select congressional documents, from 1817-1917. For documents predating the U.S. Serial Set, turn to the American State Papers collection, which is also available on Century of Lawmaking and covers the period from 1789 to 1838.

Readex Serial Set – Readex is a subscription database that provides access to the U.S. Serial Set, which includes congressional documents. There are multiple access points, including a subject index, an a to z index, a personal names index,  an index by names of acts, an index by geographic name, and you can browse documents by Congress. You can also search for a citation or perform a search within the full text.

If you have any questions, contact us through Ask A Librarian.

Locating a Congressional Committee Print: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. We have received a number of questions about congressional committee prints in the context of compiling a federal legislative history.  First, it helps to understand what congressional committee prints are and how they can be helpful for legislative researchers.  Congressional committee […]

Locating a Compiled Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. Compiling a federal legislative history may seem daunting, but it does not have to be. We hope, through our last few Beginner’s Guides, that we have made this process easier for researchers.  There is another, possibly less complicated, option for finding […]

How to Locate a United States Congressional Committee Report: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. To continue our Beginner’s Guide series on legislative history documents, we next turn to congressional committee reports. The reports created by the committees of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate are important sources for determining legislative intent, […]

How to Locate an Unpublished Congressional Hearing: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. Our previous post discussed how to locate a Published Congressional Hearing. In this guide, we will show you how to locate unpublished congressional hearings, which can often pose more of a challenge to researchers new to the area. Congressional hearings have […]

How to Locate a Published Congressional Hearing: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. In 1947, aviation and film industry executive Howard Hughes testified before a hearing of the Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program. The hearings that followed were contentious, with the committee investigating Kaiser-Hughes Aircraft for receiving taxpayer dollars for […]

The Law of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: A Beginner’s Guide

June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride month, and as such, it seems the perfect time to highlight resources that address the legal issues surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation in the United States. While these issues are frequently talked about as if they fall into a singular category, they bleed into multiple […]

How to Use Subject Headings to Browse the Library of Congress Online Catalog

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. As reference librarians here at the Law Library of Congress, we get a wide array of questions from our patrons. One of the most frequently asked questions we receive, however, is how to most effectively find relevant legal resources in our […]

Lemon Laws: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. In response to our last post on consumer protection law, we determined there was additional interest in “lemon laws.”  Lemon laws are defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as statutes “designed to protect a consumer who buys a substandard automobile, usu[ally] by […]

Consumer Protection: A Beginner’s Guide

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists. Consumer protection touches on a number of areas of law, and as such, has been broadly defined by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary as “[f]ederal and state laws established to protect retail purchasers of goods and services from inferior, adulterated, hazardous, and […]