Literary Criticism

How do I find Government Documents?

How you proceed depends on several things, including date of publication, subject, and format.

The majority of our documents that were published after 1976 can be found by searching the library catalog for author, title, or keyword.   When you find a record, note the location (Gov.Doc.; Gov.Doc. Ref.; Gov.Doc. Maps; Gov.Doc. V File; Gov.Doc. Fiche; or Annex Gov.Doc.) and the call number (aka SuDoc number).

To find documents that we didn't select or that were published before 1976, use one of the print indexes located in the Government Documents Reference area, or its online equivalent.   A list of these indexes is available at   Note the SuDoc number.   Remember, inclusion in one of these indexes does not guarantee that we have the document.

What is a SuDoc Number?

Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) numbers group publications by the same government author.   Each executive department and agency, the Judiciary, Congress, and other major independent establishments are assigned a unique alphabetical identifier, based on the name of the organization, e.g., "A" for Agriculture Department and "NS" for National Science Foundation.   The letters "X" and "Y" are reserved for Congress. Let's look at an example:

Department of Agriculture No. Designating the Title: Gypsy Moth News




 13 .141 999

  • The first letter signifies the publishing body (e.g. Department of Agriculture).
  • The second number signifies the department within the publishing body that is the author of the work (e.g. Forest Service).
  • The number after the period signifies the title of the publication (e.g. Gypsy Moth News).
  • The last number signifies the year of publication. This can be written with two, (98), three (999) or four numbers (2002).
For more information, see this explanation of the Superintendent of Documents Classification System.

SuDoc numbers are easily distinguished from Library of Congress call numbers by their funky punctuation.   In addition to periods, SuDoc numbers include colons, slashes and hyphens.

Have a SuDoc Number? Let's see what to do next.