Expert Commentary

Government-related research websites; transparency, FOIA and data projects

Sites relating to state and federal agencies; also featuring independent watchdogs, data and archive efforts.

The following are some of the best government-related sites for finding data and conducting research.

Of course, the government category of Journalist’s Resource also includes scholarly material on a wide variety of subjects in this area, including criminal justice, politics, immigration, civil rights and international affairs.

Here are helpful places to look when conducting research both at the national and state levels — it’s worth learning to navigate many of them:


Federal government: Transparency, watchdogs and archivists Tracking the movement of Freedom of Information Act requests through the federal agency system.

Government Accountability Office (GAO): Non-partisan, independent agency that works for Congress and issues periodic reports.

Open CRS: The Congressional Research Service (CRS) operates as a quasi-think tank that provides reliable, unbiased background on policy issues. Open CRS aggregates these government reports as they come into the public domain.

Project on Government Secrecy (FAS): Dedicated to putting government documents in the public domain.

National Security Archive: Longstanding organization dedicated to open government and surfacing documents.

OpenTheGovernment: Focused on diminishing government secrecy and fostering transparency.

Sunlight Foundation: Seeks to make government more accountable by creating data tools and reports.

MuckRock: Useful tools that help with information requests.


Federal government: Data and spending A site started under the Obama administration that is intended to serve as a repository for important agency datasets. More than 350,000 are available. Charting how government dollars are spent, including information on contracts. Site that shows how funding has been spent as part of the Recovery Act.


Federal government: Gateway sites

Federal Register: The official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.

Fedstats: Statistics from more than 100 U.S. federal agencies.

Government Printing Office: Federal Digital System: Provides free electronic access to a wealth of information resources produced by the federal government. Links to authoritative scientific documents, reports and position papers from a variety of federal agencies.


Federal government: Executive

Federal Staff Directory: Contact information for officials and staff of the executive branch of the federal government.

Official U.S. Executive Branch Web Sites (Library of Congress): Links to the White House and the executive branch agencies and departments.

The Plum Book (U.S. Government Policy and Supporting Positions): Listing of all presidentially appointed positions within the federal government. It is published every four years following a presidential election. Speeches, reports, policy statements coming from the Executive Office of the President.


Federal government: Legislative

Congressional Directory: Directory searchable by name and location. Provides brief bios, contact information, and sponsorship of legislation. Tracks the status of federal legislation and the activities of senators and representatives. (formerly Thomas) – Library of Congress: Includes the full-text of bills, laws, the Congressional Record, committee reports, and much more.


Federal government: Judicial

Supreme Court Collection (Cornell University): Provides access to the full-text decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Media site dedicated to latest from the Supreme Court. Searchable text of decisions; selected audio available.

U.S. Courts: the Federal Judiciary: A wealth of information on U.S. federal courts, judges and legislative rulemaking.


Government-only search engines

Google: U.S. Government Search: Simple to use and highly effective. Searches U.S. federal, state and local government websites. Search engine and subject directory for the U.S. government. Easily navigated links to federal, state, and local government.


State overview and background

National Conference of State Legislatures: Provides research, technical assistance and opportunities for policymakers to exchange ideas on the most pressing state issues.

National Governors Association: This bipartisan organization focuses on state innovations and best practices on issues ranging from education and health to technology and the environment.


State journal articles and working papers

State Politics and Policy Quarterly: Covers U.S. state political and policy issues.

Taubman Center for State and Local Government Publications: The Center produces publications addressing state and local governance and intergovernmental relations.


State directories

State Blue Books: Links to state government directories and websites.

State Government from A directory of state government websites.


State statistics

State and County Quick Facts (U.S. Census Bureau): Provides brief demographic and economic data for counties and for some metropolitan areas in the United States. A statistical database which allows you to research and compare a multitude of different data on U.S. states.

Statistical Abstract of the United States: The single most comprehensive source of statistical data on the United States.

Statistics at the State and Local Levels: List of statistics sources from


State news and analysis Authoritative news and analysis on state and local government.

News Room: National Governors Association: News releases from the National Governors Association. Nonpartisan online news site reporting on emerging trends and issues in state policy and politics.


Special thanks to the Harvard Kennedy School Library.

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