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U.S. Government Information: Citing Government Information

Citation Basics

The information required to effectively cite a federal government document in a bibliography or works cited list differs slightly from other types of materials. Government works may have personal authors, agency authors, or both. Superintendent of Documents call numbers are useful in citations because they are a universally understood call numbering system. Many of these examples are taken from The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information Resources: A Manual for Social Science & Business Research (Ref J9.5 .C44x 2002, at the Reference Desk).

The examples can help identify the necessary citation information. This information can be adapted to the format and punctuation of a standard bibliographic citation manual.

Include the library classification number assigned to the publication, e.g., SuDocs call number, PURL, or URL, or when appropriate, name of a database.

Determining author agency and publisher can be tricky. Use Government Printing Office, if it is named anywhere in the document as the printer, publisher, or sales agent. See pages 114-115 in The Complete Guide to Citing Government Information.

Note: the Government Printing Office changed its name to Government Publishing Office in 2015.

U.S. Government Citation Guides

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Federal Depository

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The University of Delaware Library is a Federal Depository Library.

"A popular Government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but as Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."
– James Madison, "Letter to W. T. Barry" (August 4, 1822)

Book or Report

U.S. Dept. of Justice. Report to the Deputy Attorney General on the Events at Waco, Texas, February 28 to April 19, 1993. Redacted ed. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1993. (J1.2:W 11).

U.S. Congress. Office of Technology Assessment. Competing Economies: America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1991. (Y3.T22/2:2 Ec 7).

Include up to three in a hierarchy of issuing agencies; when publisher is same as issuing agency, publisher name can be abbreviated

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Office of the Surgeon General. The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: DHSS, 2006.

When more than three in a hierarchy of issuing agencies, the author can be shortened to the "umbrella" and the lowest level sub-agency; include report number

  • U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health

    can be shortened to:

  • U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health

U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health. The Neuroscience of Mental Health II: A Report on Neuroscience Research: Status and Potential for Mental Health and Mental Illness. (NIH publication, no. 95-4000). Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1995. (HE 20.8102:N 39/995).

When publisher is same as issuing agency, publisher name can be omitted. (Examples illustrates commercial microfiche collection)

U.S. Dept. of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Education Longitudinal Study of 2002. Washington, D.C., 2009. (2009 ASI microfiche 4826-26).

An agency which is well-known does not have to be preceded by its departmental name

U.S. Forest Service. Taraghee Lodgepole: A Pioneering Effort in Deadwood Salvage. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1979. (A13.2:T 17).

When a personal author is named, credit should be given

U.S. Library of Congress. The Center for the Book. The History of Books: A Guide to Selected Resources in the Library of Congress. By Alice D. Schreyer. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1987. (LC1.6/4:H62).

Include agency assigned report numbers and the names of series

U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Family Structure and Children's Health: United States, 1988. (DHHS Pub. No. PHS 91-1506). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991. (Vital and Health Statistics Series 10: Data from the National Health Survey No. 178). (HE20.6209:10/178).

Book or Report: Chapter

Steiner, Richard. "Washington Present: Our Nation's Capitol Today," pp. 54-135. In U.S. Capitol Historical Society. Washington Past and Present. Washington: U.S. Capitol Historical Society, 1983. (Y3.H62/2:8W27).

Book or Report: Table

"Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts--Membership and Units: 1970 to 1989," No 410, p. 241. In Statistical Abstract of the United States, 1991. 111th ed. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991.

"DP-4. Profile of Selected Housing Characteristics: 2000 -- Delaware." Data Set: Census 2000 (SF 3). Available at: American Factfinder (Census Bureau),; Accessed: 5/31/10.


U.S. Department of the Navy. Naval Historical Center. On Course to Desert Storm: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf. By Michael A. Palmer. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1992. (Contributions to Naval History, No. 5). (D207.10/4:5).

Series within a series

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Poverty in the United States: 1992. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1993. (Current Population Reports; Consumer Income Series P60-185). (C3.186/22:992).

Article in Periodical

One author

Wallach, John M. "No More!" All Hands 905 (Aug. 1992) pp. 4-9. (D207.17:905).

Two authors

Greenberg, Martin A., and Ellen C. Wertleib. "The Police and the Elderly (Pt. 2)." FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin 52:9 (Sept. 1983) pp. 1-6. (J1.14/8:52/9).

No author

"Progress and Challenges: Looking at EPA Today," EPA Journal 16:5 (Sept/Oct. 1990) pp. 15-29. (EP1.67:16/5).

From commercial database vendor

Meadows, Michelle. "Why Drugs Get Pulled Off the Markets," FDA Consumer 36:1 (Jan.-Feb. 2002) (3669 words). Available at: Academic OneFile; Accessed 10/1/10.

Electronic only

"Not in My Spoon!" Sci4Kids, Last updated 9/1/2010. Available at: U.S. Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service,; Accessed 10/1/10.

Electronic with print equivalent

"Measles, Rubella, and Congenital Rubella Syndrome – United States and Mexico, 1997–1999," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) 49:46 (Nov. 24, 2000) pp. 1048-1059. Available at:; Accessed 8/1/10.

Standard or Well-Known Source

It is not necessary to include the name of the issuing agency for well-known or standard reference sources, such as the Government Manual, Statistical Abstract of the United States, U.S. Reports, and the Congressional Directory.

Economic Report of the President, February 1992. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1992.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George H. W. Bush, 1991. Available at: FDsys (Government Printing Office),; Accessed: 5/31/10.

Special Format

Include the format for audio or video tapes, audiovisual materials, film strips, maps, microfilm, microfiche, and slides:

U.S. Department of the Interior. Bureau of Outdoor Recreation. National Urban Recreation Study: Dallas Fort Worth (Microfiche). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1977. (I66.24:D16).

Special Cases: Census & Serial Set


A major census can be cited by its title, without an agency or department.

U.S. Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Summary Population and Housing Characteristics Delaware (CPH-1-9). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991. (C3.223/18:CPH-1-9).

U.S. Census of Retail Trade, 1992, Geographic Area Series Delaware (Microfiche) (RC92-A-8). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1994. (C3.255/2:RC 92-A-8).

Congressional Serial Set

U.S. Senate, 50th Congress, 2nd Session. Report on Indian Traderships (S. Rpt. 2707). Washington, Government Printing Office, 1899. (Serial Set 2623). Available at: Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set; Accessed: 6/1/11.


U.S. Senate. Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Gold and Silver Coinage Proposals Hearing, 15 Apr. 1983 (S.Hrg. 98-113). (microfiche). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1983. (Y4.B22/3:S.Hrg. 98-113).

U.S. Senate. History of the Committee on Finance (S.Doc.95-27). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1977. (1977 CIS microfiche S 360-1).

Sections within a hearing include transcriptions of testimony or of the question and answer session, the witness's prepared remarks, or a publication (usually a periodical article) submitted with the testimony. The transcript could be from the published hearing or from one of the transcription services.

Testimony in a hearing (from commercial database vendor)

Grant, Susan. "On-line Fraud and Crime: Are Consumers Safe?" prepared testimony, May 23, 2001, before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. Text from: Federal News Service. Available at: ProQuest Congressional; Accessed: 6/1/11.

Article or paper inserted in a hearing

Park, Robert L. "The Muzzling of American Science," pp. 609-614. In U.S. House. Committee on Government Operations. Computer Security Act of 1987, Hearing February 25, 26, and March 17, 1987. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1987. (Y4.G74/7:C43/29).

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