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Brief Citing Guide

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Government Publications Department
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Brief Guide to Citing Government Publications
Basic Citation Form | Issuing Agency as Author | Congress as Author
Frequently Cited and Legal Publications | State Data Center Publications | Microform Collections | Electronic Information | Basic Citation Form for "Tangible" Sources | Basic Citation Form for Online Sources | Individual Titles within Searchable Databases | Maps | Additional Resources


Citing publications used in research papers, articles, etc. are not exercises designed to strain the patience of writers. They are locators for material used and should be as precise and succinct as good road directions. The form of the citation is not sacrosanct but is used for uniformity and is a valuable tool for communication. This guide provides examples of the most common examples of government document citations. These examples are based on the Chicago/Turabian standard bibliographic style and not reference-list form. You may need to modify the citation to conform to the manual/form you are required to use. If your publication does not fall into any of these categories, please see the Government Publications Staff for more detailed guidance.

The forms of these citations were patterned after the following:

Garner, Diane and Diane H. Smith. The Complete Guide to Citing Government Documents: A Manual for Writers & Librarians. Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service, 1984.


Government publications are written by federal bureaucrats and printed, not published, by the Government Printing Office. Very often these publications will not follow a standard title page arrangement and some publishing elements will be eliminated. However, use the following citation example to find as many elements as possible and arrange them as shown.

Author (Agency). Title, edition, statement. Place of publication: Publisher, Date. (Series elements). (Notes). [ If including Superintendent of Documents number, enter in Notes ]

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The following are examples of some of the most common types of citations for government publications:


Single issuing agency
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Home Safety Tips: You Can Keep Your Baby Safe. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995.

Different bureaucratic levels
Each agency usually has many bureaucratic levels. Use the "parent" agency and the lowest level given as the author.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Center for Health Statistics. Disability Among Older Persons: United States and Canada. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995. (HE 20.6209:5/8).

Well-known agency
Some lower levels of agencies can be well-known on their own. You may choose to eliminate the "parent" as part of the author.

U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI Mission: To Uphold the Law. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1990.

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Use the full Committee name as the author even though a sub-committee might have actually held the hearing or issued the report.

U.S. House. Committee on Economic and Educational Opportunities. Child Care and Child Welfare Hearing, 3 February 1995. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995.

Committee Prints
U.S. Senate. Committee on Governmental Affairs. Managing the Public's Business: Federal Government Corporations. (S. Prt. 104-18). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995.

U.S. Senate. Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Franklin D. Roosevelt's Family Lands: Report Together with Minority Views (to accompany S. 134). (S. Rpt.104-32). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1995.

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Statutes at Large
"Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1994." (P.L. 103-78), United States Statutes at Large. 107 Stat. 2024.

For pre-1875 statutes, please refer to the The Chicago Manual of Style, sections 15.357 and 16.166.

U.S. Reports
Legal citation: Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478 (1990).

Bibliographic citation: Burns v. Reed, U.S. Reports 500 pp. 478-506.

Please see Librarian for pre-1875 citations.

Federal Register
Legal citation: 60 Fed. Reg. 210 (31 October 1995).

Bibliographic citation: "Suspension of Community Eligibility, Final Rule." Federal Register 60:210 (31 October 1995) p. 55329.

Code of Federal Regulations
Legal citation: 18 CFR 157.17 (1995).

Bibliographic citation: "Application for Temporary Certificates in Cases of Emergency." Code of Federal Regulations Title 18, Pt. 157.17, 1995 ed.

Census of Population and Housing
U.S. Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Summary Population and Housing Characteristics: Tennessee. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1991.

Statistical Abstract of the United States
Statistical Abstract of the United States 1997. 117th ed. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1997.

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Tennessee. State Data Center. Tennessee Selected Social Characteristics: 1990 (1990 Census of Population and Housing: Summary Tape File 3A). Nashville, 1992.

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American Statistics Index (ASI)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 1992 AFDC Recipient Characteristics Study. Washington: The Department, 1994. (1994 ASI microfiche 4584-7).

Statistical Reference Index (SRI)
Delaware. Department of Labor. Snapshot Delaware 93. Newark: Delaware Department of Labor, 1994. (1994 SRI Microfiche S1405-4).

Major Studies & Issue Briefs of the Congressional Research Service Index (CRSI)
U.S. Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service. Shared Housing: A Possible Alternative for Housing the Elderly? by Susan Vanhorenbeck. Washington: The Service, 1983. (1983/84 CRSI Reel 10, Frame 681).

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The federal government is moving toward more information being distributed and available only in machine-readable form. Standardized citations for these publications have yet not been accepted by the scholarly community. The following examples are the forms we favor because of their simplicity. They have been slightly modified to conform to Chicago/Turabian standard bibliographic style. Slight changes will need to be made to use reference-list style. Please check some of the sites listed in Links for comparisons.

Electronic information and the products on which they are disseminated can change hourly. Please see Librarian for additional help in citing these government publications.

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A citation to data or full-text documents from such files on CD-ROM or floppies should include, as applicable: issuing agency, title, statements of responsibility for production, medium designation; edition statement; place of publication, producer, and date.

Author. Title, edition statement [TYPE OF MEDIUM]. Place of publication: Producer, Date.

U.S. Geological Service. MudView++. [DISKETTE]. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1994.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Census of Population and Housing, 1990: Summary Tape File 3A: Tennessee. CD-ROM. Washington: The Bureau, [1992].

U.S. International Trade Administration. Market Research Reports: France--Euro Disney. 1992. In U.S. Department of Commerce. Office of Business Analysis. The National Trade Data Bank: The Export Connection CD-ROM. Washington: Government Printing Office, February, 1992.

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The basic form of a document retrieved via online databases, Gophers, or the WWW should include the author, title and edition, type of medium, date, availability of directories and files as needed. (Some addresses, directories, and files may lead to a search engine. However, the citation should contain enough specific information about the publication to retrieve it.) Use minimal punctuation because periods or commas may be mistaken for part of an electronic address. If you have obtained the file using a browser, you may use the Uniform Resource Locator (URL).

Author. Title (edition), TYPE OF MEDIUM. Date of publication. Supplier. Available: Uniform Resource Locator . [Access date].

U.S. Bureau of the Census. Poverty Areas. ONLINE. 1995. Census Bureau. Available: [10 Dec. 1995].

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Federal Register
"Protection of Historic Properties." 64 Federal Register (18 May. 1999). ONLINE. Available:   [26 Feb. 2000].

Congressional Record
Ford, Rep. [TN]. "Tribute to Rhodes College Mock Trial Team." Congressional Record ONLINE 25 May 1995. Thomas. Available:   [3 March 1999].

Congressional Bills
U.S. House. 104th Congress, 1st Session. H.R. 1950, Newborns' and Mothers' Health Protection Act of 1995. ONLINE. GPO Access. Available:   [8 June 1995].

GAO Reports
U.S. General Accounting Office. Homeland Security: Progress Made; More Direction and Partnership Sought. ONLINE. GPO Access. 12 March 2002. Available:   [3 May 2002].

U.S. Code
Abandoned Shipwrecks (2000). Title 43 U.S. Code, Ch. 39 ONLINE. GPO Access. Available:   [2 May 2001].

Apple tree "Vermont Gold," by W.H. Luginbuhl. (1991, August 13). Patent PP7618 [Online]. Available: NEXIS Library: PATENT File: PLANT

Lawn mower, by Jung-Chang Jong (2002, May 13). D457897 [Online]. Available:

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For other source information, please try these sites:

Citing Electronic Information in History Papers Maurice Crouse, The University of Memphis

Bibliographic Formats for Citing Electronic Information based on the book by Li & Crane "Electronic Styles: An Expanded Guide to Citing Electronic Information (1996).


Send questions/comments/suggestions to Perveen Rustomfram

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Last Updated: 11/28/12