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HIST 2302 / HIST 3301/6303: Historian's Craft / Historical Methods (Govt Docs)

HIST 3301/6303: Historical Methods - Research U.S. Government Documents

HIST 2302 Practice Sheet for 2020

Guide to Government Documents - In the Cornette Library

Online Resources for Practice Sheet - Question 1

For Question 1 you will select one item to evaluate.  It might be a book or a small pamphlet.  Choose an item from one of the pages below.  They include links to some interesting U.S. government publications.

Online Resources For Practice Sheet - Question 2

For question 2, write about one volume or entry in a large set.  Since the library's Government Documents unit is currently a closed stacks area as a Covid-19 precaution, you are invited to browse some online volumes of important sets.  Usually the contents of these sets are considered primary sources.  Pick one of the sets below to begin.  To avoid confusion, a link to one particular volume or entry is usually spotlighted.

American State Papers (1789-1838) / Indian Affairs Volume 2, 1815-1827.  American State Papers contain the legislative and executive documents of Congress from 1789 to 1838.  The 38 volumes can be used to cover the historical gap from 1789 to the printing of the first volume of the U.S. Serial Set in 1817. The books are arranged into ten topics.

The Congressional Record includes proceedings and floor debates from the Senate and the House.  For example, Volume 109 covers the year 1963.  The 33 "Parts" that make up Volume 109 are actually physical volumes.  Part 17 covers Nov. 18 - Dec. 3.  You can access the contents of the official "bound" volumes of the Congressional Record online, which are divided into manageable segments.  For example, click on the plus sign (+) by "109 Cong. Rec. (Bound) - Volume 109, Part 17 (Nov. 18, 1963 to Dec. 3, 1963)."  Next, click on the date Nov. 26, 1963.  Then click on one of the options: "House of Representatives: Nov. 26, 1963."  Scroll down to page 22823 to read "President Kennedy's Undelivered Speech" written for the date of his assassination.

The Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) set has official documents of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity.  For your practice sheet, you may browse links to the full text of 25 volumes from 1977 - 1980.

Public Papers of the Presidents volumes are available from  Since one volume can take over five minutes to download, you may prefer to look at online editions from the National Archives.  The NARA makes the content available by a month/year with list to links for each day of that month, such as the June 12, 1987 speech of Ronald Regan to "tear down this wall."

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set contains almost all of the congressional reports and documents published since 1817.  It does not contain hearings.  Cover-to-cover digitized versions of actual Volume 1 through Volume 12644:5 (1817 - 1964) are available from HathiTrust, such as Serial Set Volume Number 114.  These volumes load quickly in a browser.

The content of the set from 1957 to 2016 is available online as Congressional Reports (House and Senate) and Congressional Documents (House and Senate), but cannot be viewed by Serial Set Volume Number.

WT students may more easily search the content in the database U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980.

For more in-depth information about this set, you may consult the 2006 PDF article An Overview of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set or the web version which has some clickable links.

The Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents was printed from 1965 to 2009 until it became the online-only Daily Compilation.  You may click on the plus sign (+) by a year to browse individual documents online, such as a speech by President George W. Bush on 9/11/2001.  You may sometimes find entire digitized volumes, such as Volume 33 which consists of all the weekly issues from January through April, 1997.

Optional Exploration - SuDoc Browsing in the CGP

The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) focuses on cataloging government resources published since July, 1976.  However, sometimes you will get lucky and find older publications listed.  You might have fun using the Browse option:  change the "Title Begins..." search to the "SuDoc Call Number Begins..."  search option.  It is almost like walking the stacks in the Gov Docs unit of the Cornette Library!

A broad search for I would be exhaustive and exhausting, but a more narrow search for, say,  I 52 would find items produced by the War Relocation Authority (1944-1946) and would include information on Japanese internment camps.

You might then Google the title of the old resource to see if a credible organization has digitized it and made it freely available.  Example:  "Uprooted Americans in Your Community" I 52.2:AM 3.