Citing US Government Documents (Federal, State, and Local)
Many government publications originate through executive departments, federal and state agencies, and the United States Congress. These documents are often posted without a clear indication of author, title, publisher or copyright date. There are no hard and fast rules for citing these publications. Look for available clues and provide as much information as possible in your chosen citation style. The resources listed below will help create consistent citations.
- The Bluebook: A Uniform System of CitationPrescribes the most widely used legal citation style system in the United States. The Bluebook is compiled by the Harvard Law Review Association.
- Government Publishing Office (GPO) Style ManualAn official guide to the form style of Federal Government publishing. 2016.
- Citation GuideCreated by the Library of Congress.
- Webinar - Cite It with Style! How to Cite Government Resources Like a ProProvides an overview of the principles of scholarly citation and focuses on the specific problems and peculiarities involved in citing Government documents. Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) webinar. 2020.
- APA Citation Style (Himmelfarb Health Sciences Library Guide)APA Citation Style does not have a separate category for government publications. According to APA, government documents can be considered Books, Technical/Research Reports or Brochures.
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA)The APA Manual, Seventh Edition, is the official source for APA Style. Government report references are covered in Section 10.4. Free access to the Publication Manual and other resources during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Chicago Manual of StyleIn a departure from previous recommendations, Chicago now recommends using The Bluebook for citing legal and public documents—including cases, constitutions, statutes, and other government documents—even in works with a predominantly nonlegal subject matter. See Chicago chapters 14 and 15 for in-depth citation guidance.
Citing International Government Documents
- United Nations Editorial Manual - OnlineIntended to serve as an authoritative statement of the style to be followed in drafting, editing and reproducing United Nations documents, publications and other written material.
- United Nations Editorial Manual (1983)A compendium of rules and directives on United Nations editorial style, publication policies, procedures and practice. This 1983 edition remains the primary authority for United Nations editorial policy.
- Dag Hammarskjold LibraryA general guide for citing United Nations materials.
- Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citationaka The McGill Guide.
Here are some examples of frequently used government publications. Unless otherwise noted, these citations are based largely on the style of the above linked, The Complete Guide to Citing Government Documents: A Manual for Writers & Librarians (1993). You should also consult whatever style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) is appropriate for your project.
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR):
"Rules and Regulations Governing Smithsonian Institution Buildings and Grounds," Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations, Pt. 504. 2012 ed.
"Odorant Fade in Railroad Tank Cars; Notice of Safety Advisory," 77 Federal Register 72 (13 April 2012), pp. 22381-22383.
Rep. Coats (Ind.). "Hats off to IU Hoosiers," Congressional Record 133, Pt. 6 (31 Mar. 1987) p. 7336.
U.S. Senate. 50th Congress, 2nd Session. Report on Indian Traderships (S.Rpt.2707). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899. (Serial Set 2623).
U.S. House. Committee of Ways and Means. Child Care and Child Welfare Hearing, 3 February 1995. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995. (Y4.W36:104-14)
Senate Executive Journal:
Chicago style (bibliographic style)
U.S. Congress. Senate Exec. Journal. 1st Cong., 2nd sess., 11 January 1790. (View the page cited)
Chicago style (author/date style)
U.S. House Journal. 1790. 1st Cong., 2nd sess., 22 January. (View the page cited)
Journals of the Continental Congress:
Chicago style (bibliographic style)
Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al. (Washington, D.C., 1904-37), 19:137. (View the page cited)
JCC, 1774-1789, ed. Worthington C. Ford et al. (Washington, D.C., 1904-37), 19:137. (View the page cited)
National Cancer Institute. (2019). Taking time: Support for people with cancer (NIH Publication No. 18-2059). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/takingtime.pdf
File, Thom. Who Votes? Congressional Elections and the American Electorate: 1978-2014. United States, Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, July 2015, census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/demo/p20-577.pdf. Accessed 12 Dec. 2017.
In-Text Citations Format
(Author Surname OR Name of Government Organization, Year)
(Author Surname OR Name of Government Organization, Year, page number)
Author Surname, First Initial. Second Initial. OR Government Name. Name of Government Agency. (Year). Title: Subtitle (Report No. xxx [if available]). Publisher.
- Citation Managers (e.g. Zotero, EndNote Online, etc.)Citation managers are software packages used to create personalized databases of citation information and notes. They allow you to: import and organize citation information from article indexes and other sources; save links to pdfs and other documents; format citations for your papers and bibliographies using APA and many other styles; and include your own notes.