Skip to Main Content
Today's Hours:

Field Guide to Research Sources

What type of source did you find? Use this field guide to identify it.

Legal or governmental documents

What they are: Documents produced by a governmental agency. There are many different types, and each type is cited in a different way. Here are some examples:

  • Bills
  • Statutes
  • Regulations
  • Legal codes
  • Constitutions
  • Court cases
  • Treaties
  • Transcripts of congressional proceedings
  • ...and many more!


What they give you: Information about what the government is doing or has done.


How to spot them: The only thing that these various types of documents have in common is that they were all created by a government, or by an agency within a government. Often the agency will be listed as the author, as in this example:

Screenshot of a government document in a list of Quest search results

However, some government documents will list individual people as authors. And, some will list no authors at all.


It can be difficult to distinguish particular types of government documents. For example, bills and statutes and codes and regulations can appear very similar, but they are four different things and are cited in four different ways. If you want help identifying a particular government document, just ask a librarian.