September 17 was made Constitution Day in 2004, creating a day for everyone to learn about the U.S. Constitution.
In celebration, I’m going to present a few government resources (digital, but still very wordy) that may be useful for research.
First, the Government Printing Office is responsible for making available government information from all three branches. For much of its history information was only in print form and you had to go to a depository (typically a large government, university, or public library) to access it. Now you can find much of the government’s publications online. One example is the U.S. Constitution along with legal commentary.
As you well know, the Constitution outlines our three branches of government, which have leafed out into a seemingly endless amount of agencies, offices, statistics and publications. There are a couple tools available to help you search for what you need to find:
Whenever you search for government information, it’s best to start by thinking about which portion of government might have that information.
- Is it state, local, or federal information?
- What agency might be responsible?
- Is that something the government might NOT collect?
It’s important to remember that just because you want to know something, it doesn’t mean that the government has spent the time and money to collect, evaluate, and publish the information. And sometimes the legislative branch officially stops the government from collecting specific kinds of information.
Other times the government would prefer that you not know something. They’ll only give it out if you specifically ask for it. Many government agencies will outline their policies regarding the Freedom of Information Act. You can also look at your state’s FOIA or sunshine laws for state government information restrictions and requirements.