Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) Search Tips/Help
What to Search | How to Search | Working with Results | "My Options" | Browsers, Fonts, Links | askGPO
|What to Search
The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) is the finding tool for electronic and print publications from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the U.S. government.
These publications make up the National Bibliography of U.S. Government Publications.
The CGP contains more than 500,000 descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to those that are available online.
The cataloging records currently date from July 1976 to the present and plans are underway to include records for publications dating back to the 1800s.
Basic, advanced, expert, and browse searches are used on this "full catalog".
Other Catalogs to Search
Other catalogs contain record subsets of the "full catalog" described above. These catalogs provide a first step to narrow one's search. They also contain indexing specific to the content.
For example, ISSN numbers can be searched in the Serials catalog.
Congressional Serial Set:
The Congressional Serial Set Catalog contains records for House and Senate Reports, House and Senate Documents, Senate Executive Reports and Documents, and Senate Treaty Documents.
The records date from July 1976 and are complete from the 95th Congress (1977-1978) to the present. Links are provided to publications when they are available online.
The Congressional Publications Catalog contains records for publications of the United States Congress, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and joint committees dating from July 1976 to the present.
Links are provided to publications when they are available online.
The GPO Historic Shelflist is the U.S. Government Publishing Office's (GPO) historic card catalog covering U.S. Government documents from the 1800s to October 1992.
This catalog contains records for and links to Federal Government publications that are available online. Records date from July 1976 to the present.
This catalog contains bibliographic records for continuing Government titles such as journals, annuals and periodicals. Records date from 1976 and they contain links to titles that are available online.
Multiple catalogs can be searched simultaneously. Click on the Catalogs to Search link and check the catalogs you wish to search.
|How to Search
The CGP can be searched by several different methods: Basic, Advanced, Expert, and Browse. Brief search hints are on all of the search pages.
In addition to the search hints, the following are rules for all types of searches:
- The length of the search terms used in any of the search methods can be up to 2,000 characters long.
- The catalog supports and, or, and not Boolean operators. and is assumed if no operator is present. Operators can be typed in English or expressed by using any of the following conventions:
- AND = + (plus sign)
- AND = & (ampersand)
- OR = | (pipe sign)
- NOT = ~ (tilde)
- Use quotes to indicate a phrase. For example, "national parks"
- The ? character or * character (asterisk) are place holders for any number of characters. They can be placed at the left, right or middle of a portion of a word, but it can never be used more than once in a text string.
- The # symbol can be used to find variant spellings in cases where one version of the word has one more character than another version. For example, arch#eology will find both archaeology and archeology.
- The ! character can be used to find variant spellings in cases where a single character may vary. For example, wom!n will retrieve both woman and women.
- Place parentheses around search elements to specify priority when parsing the command. For example, the search: "History and military or war" may produce very different results to the search "History and (military or war)."
- The -> (hyphen and greater than symbols) can be placed between two words. This indicates that you want to retrieve records that have words from (and including) the first word, through the second word. This search is particularly helpful for limiting a set of records by year of publication. You cannot use to instead of the symbols.
For example, use: 1993 -> 1996 or child -> chill. Do NOT use: 1993 to 1996 or child to chill.
This is the CGP Basic Search page, which is the default page for those who enter the catalog from http://catalog.gpo.gov.
To conduct a Basic Search, choose the index you want to search, e.g., keyword(s), title, author, or subject. Enter your search term(s) in the box and press "GO". Use quotes around phrases, use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) between terms, or apply any of the other rules listed above to get more precise search results.
Once you have conducted a search you begin to work within the catalog. To do another Basic Search, click on BASIC in the catalog's top navigation. The page that is returned is slightly different from the first Basic Search page. You can formulate a search as you did initially or you can create a search by working with your previous search results. See "Working with Results" below.
The Advanced Search allows you to search up to three word groups simultaneously with your choice of Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) between the groups and your choice of indexes to search.
The words and/or phrases you choose to search do not have to be searched in the same index. Many index options are in the drop down boxes. The more indexes or terms that are searched, the narrower your search becomes.
For specific subject searches of LC, MeSH, and NASA subject headings, the ? must be used if you do not have the exact heading. For example:
In addition to the Advanced Search forms, you may use the limit search options located in the lower part of the screen. Limit your search further by language, format, year, or choose another "catalog" to search within.
- LC heading search of libraries retrieves only records with libraries as a subject heading.
- LC heading search of libraries? also retrieves records in which libraries is only the first element of the subject heading, e.g., libraries - security measures
Item Number Search
In order to search specific formats of an Item Number, you must use quotations around the Item Number.
In order to search all formats of an Item Number, you must use truncation (?) after the Item Number.
- "1004-E-01" will return only items distributed in paper
- "1004-E-01 (online)" will only return EL items
- "0996-B (MF)" will only return items distributed in Microfiche
- 1004-E-01? or "1004-E-01?" will return all items listed under this Item Number regardless of format.
The Expert Search uses the Common Command Language (CCL) to search for words or headings in several different indexes at once. Codes must be used to indicate the index to be searched. The syntax of an Expert Search is:
<index>=<search term> [Boolean operator <index>=<search term>]
index = the code of the word index to be searched, such as 'wti' (words in title), 'wsu' (words in subject) etc.
search term = is the word or phrase you are looking for. You can use truncation and masking (wildcard characters) operators here if required (e.g. 'national*' or 'wom!n').
Boolean operator = AND, OR, or NOT to combine multiple terms in the statements.
If necessary, parentheses can be used to prioritize parsing of the command.
Example: WTI="migratory birds" AND WUR=http://purl
This search will retrieve records with migratory birds as a phrase anywhere in a title and the record will also have a link to the online version of the publication.
||Date of record ****
|| Author begins (last name first) *
|| Bill Number
||Corporate/Agency Author Keywords
||Corporate/Agency Author begins *
||Conference Proceeding Keywords
||Conference Proceedings begins *
||SuDoc Class Number
||ISBN (omit hyphens)
||ISSN (use hyphen)
||Library of Congress Class number begins *
||Library of Congress Class
||Series begins *
||Subject begins *
||SuDoc class number begins *
||Library of Congress Subjects *
|| MeSH Subjects *
|| NASA Subjects *
|| Title, title variations, form title begins *
|| Title: proper (omit initial article) *
|| Author Keywords
|| Format **
|| Geographic Subjects
|| Library of Congress Subjects
|| Language Code ***
|| NASA Subjects
|| New records by date ****
|| All Notes
|| Contract Number
||Shipping List Number
||Technical Report Number
||Year of Publication
* Indicates a Browse search. Used in the Expert Search, however, it returns the brief results list instead of the browse list.
NOTE: When using a code for a Browse Search, the terms need to be entered exactly as they appear in the record or a truncation character (?) must be used. Otherwise no records will be returned. For example:
SRS=water resources investigations report or use a ? mark example:
** Format is system format. To search use codes: BK=book, SE=Serial, MP=Map, CF=CD/DVD/Floppy, VM=Visual Materials or MX=Mixed Media.
WFM=MP AND WRD=Louisiana
WFM=SE AND WRD="House Reports"
WFM=BK AND BNO="S 21"
*** Language Code is the MARC language code. Codes can be found on the Library of Congress MARC Codes page at: http://www.loc.gov/marc/languages/language_code.html
WLN=ENG AND WRD="tax form"
WLN=FRE AND WRD=Canada
WLN=SPA AND WRD=health
**** 005, Date of record, retrieves records based on the date the record was last updated in CGP. This search may retrieve both new and updated records. WNEW, New records by date, contain only new records.
005=200805? For records created or updated in May 2008.
WNEW=200805? For records created in May 2008.
WNEW=200805? AND WUR=http://purl? For EL records created in May 2008.
WNEW=200805? NOT WUR=http://purl? For non-EL records created in May 2008.
005=201510? AND WPS=d For records that were created or updated in October 2015 that have ceased, which are continuing/integrating resources that no longer have new issues produced, are no longer updated, or a change in author or title has caused a successive entry record to be created.
Use a Browse Search when you want to browse through and alphabetical or numerical list. Many of the Browse Search options in the drop down menu boxes include "begins with". For example, Title begins with, SuDoc number begins with.
On the left side of each entry on the list, the number of bibliographic records associated with each heading is indicated. You can navigate up and down the alphabetical list using the "Previous Page" and "Next Page" buttons located at the top and bottom of the browse list.
If you wish to move to a different location in the browse list or perform a new Browse Search, type a word or phrase in the "Enter Word/s to Search" field located at the top of the page.
If browsing a new index, choose the type of index you wish to search from the drop-down menu and then press the "Go" button.
Searching for Resource Description and Access (RDA) Records
To search RDA records simply search by the term rdacarrier as a keyword.
Basic Search: rdacarrier AND water
Advanced Search: line 1 Keyword: rdacarrier AND line 2 SuDoc Class Number: Y 4?
Advanced Search: line 1 Keyword: rdacarrier AND line 2 Item Number: 0546-F-01?
RDA, the cataloging standard to replace AACR2, is based on FRBR, or Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, and was released in 2010. The FRBR model is internationally recognized as a viable and valuable way to conceptually structure and retrieve information.
The transition to RDA is complex, but several changes are notable in how they differ from current AACR2 standards:
Searching for Government eBooks
- RDA imposes new rules for the creation of added entries (elimination of the "rule of 3").
- Most abbreviations are to be eliminated, particularly Latin abbreviations.
- The general material designation (GMD) is replaced by three new MARC fields: content type (336), media type (337), and carrier type (338).
- For more information about GPO's implementation of RDA, including timelines, please click here.
To search Government eBook records simply search by the term "Gov eBook" as a keyword.
To find a specific eBook format:
"Gov eBook" mobi
"Gov eBook" AND mobi
To find eBooks with other keywords:
"Gov eBook" military
"Gov eBook" AND military
Search as normal, but set Limit Search by: Catalogs to Government eBooks using the drop down
To find a specific eBook format:
Search "mobi" or "epub" and set Limit Search by: Catalogs to Government eBooks using the drop down
Expert Search using CCL:
All current eBooks:
To find a specific eBook format:
Search eBooks with other keywords
WRD="gov ebook" AND WRD=military
To find a specific eBook format with other keywords:
WUR="epub" AND WRD=force
For more information on Government eBooks, including a quick eBooks keyword search box, please see our FDLP.gov page, which can be found here: http://fdlp.gov/377-projects-active/1886-ebooks-gpo
NEW: Searching for FDLP Web Archive Titles
To search FDLP Web Archive records simply search by the term "WEBARCH" as a keyword. Capitalization does not matter "webarch" is also fine.
Basic Search: WEBARCH AND health
Advanced Search: Search as normal, but set Limit Search by: Catalogs to FDLP Web Archive using the drop down
For more information on the FDLP Web Archive project which contains records of archived Government websites within the scope of the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP), please see our FDLP.gov page, which can be found here: http://www.fdlp.gov/project-list/web-archiving
To view all currently available records in the FDLP Web Archive, please click here
|Working with Results
One Word Searches
If you only used one search term and had an unsuccessful search you are presented with a list of words from the index you searched. The list includes several words that appear directly before and directly after your search term.
You may click on any of those words if applicable to receive search results or you may enter a revised search from that same page.
If your search query included several words and is an unsuccessful search, the Search Elements (permute) page is returned. This page itemizes the results for your different search elements. You may click on any of those segments if applicable to receive search results or may enter a revised search from that same page.
Previous Searches lists sets from past searches and lets you view the records in a set, delete a set from the list or cross sets. From My Options on the navigation bar click the Previous Searches link and a list of previous searches displays.
To view a set of records from the list, mark the checkbox next to the set and click the "View" button. Sets can be deleted from the list by marking the checkbox next to the set and clicking the "Delete" button. Marking the checkboxes next to the desired sets and clicking the "Merge" button can merge sets.
This allows patrons the option to view all of the records of more than one set at one time. Finally, you can combine sets by selecting the desired sets and clicking the "Combine" button.
Clicking the "Combine" button will call up the Select Logical Operation form. Select the desired logical operation and click Combine. You can select to use AND, OR, "First set not second" or "Second set not first".
The "First set not second" operation retrieves records that are contained within the first set only. The "Second set not first" operation retrieves records that are contained only in the seconds set.
When you enter a successful search query, a Results List is created. The Results List redisplays your search query, provides sorting options, and gives the number of records that satisfied your query.
Records are displayed in the Results List by the default sort of Year in descending order (d) then by title. Up to 1,500 records can be displayed in the Results list. From the Results List you can also rank and refine your search to broaden or narrow it, add records to your Bookshelf, e-mail records, or create subsets.
You can view the Results List only for your last search by clicking on the "Results List" link from "My Options" at the top of the page.
The default sort is by Year in descending order (d) and then by title. The sort can easily be changed by clicking on the column headings or by choosing from the sort options:
Year(d)/Title | Year(a)/Title | Title/Year(d) | SuDoc(s)
The set remains in the last order selected, and the sort factor displays at the top of the screen. If the set contains more records than the sort threshold allows the set cannot be sorted.
Bibliographic information within the Results List displays in the (default) Brief View format and lists each matching record in a single row, providing Title, Year of publication, Author, SuDoc Number, and availability of Internet Access.
You can change to the Extended view from Display options link on the Results List page. Alternatively the view can be changed by modifying your preferences within "My Options".
Navigating Through Results:
- Click the "Jump to #" button after you have entered a number in the field to the right. This will advance through the Results List to the record number you have specified.
- Click either the "Previous Page" or "Next Page" buttons to advance through the Results List. The default number of records that display per page is ten. This can be changed by modifying your preferences with "My Options". If the Previous or Next Page buttons are greyed-out, there are no previous or next pages to which you can go.
From the Results List you may choose or "select" all or any number of records. Once selected, there are several options for actions you can take upon these records.
View Selected Records
- To view a single record, click on the hyperlinked sequential number or title;
- To view multiple records from the Results List, mark the adjacent checkbox and click on the "View Selected" link;
- To view all the records displayed, click on the "Select All" link. The marked records will display in the Full View format. You can navigate through the selected records by clicking on the "Previous" and "Next Record" buttons; and
- To deselect selected records click the "Deselect" link. This will deselect all selected records.
You can e-mail records from the search results list, your bookshelf, or from within a specific record. The system allows no more than 20 records to be e-mailed at one time.
If you have more than 20 records, you have to "select" 20 at a time and send multiple e-mails.
To initiate the e-mail process, click on the E-mail link to retrieve a form. The default values are for "Selected records" to be e-mailed in the "Standard view".
"All records" becomes the default, rather than "Selected," if you have fewer than 20 records in your set. If this format is ok with you, all you need to do is fill-in the designated box with your e-mail address and press the "GO" button.
You may choose to create your own view of the record, include a subject line for the e-mail, or include a text note. TIP: You might want to put the search strategy you used to obtain your results in the text box.
The records you e-mail will have the subject line that you define and will be sent from firstname.lastname@example.org. To ensure that you receive e-mail from the CGP, you will want to add email@example.com to your address book/safe list and to the list of recognizable addresses of any spam filter that may be in place.
Create a Subset
To create a subset, select records from the results list, click on the "Create Subset" link. The subset will display in a Brief View format.
The subset of records can be e-mailed or each record of the subset can be viewed in the full format by clicking on the underlined number to the left of the record or by clicking on the title.
Add to Bookshelf
Records can be selected and added to a "Bookshelf" throughout your search session. Once you have completed your search session the contents of the Bookshelf can be e-mailed.
There are two methods exist for placing items into the "Basket":
When you have finished searching and would like to retrieve the records in your Bookshelf, click the "Bookshelf" link from "My Options" in the navigation toolbar.
The Documents on the Bookshelf screen will appear listing all the records you have added to your basket. Records can be deleted from the Bookshelf by clicking the "Delete" link. Additionally, you can view the Full View of the record again by clicking the "full view" link.
- From the Results List, desired records can be selected by marking the checkboxes to the left of the record. Once you have marked the records you would like to add to the Bookshelf click the "Add to Bookshelf" link. A message will appear confirming that the records have been added to the Bookshelf.
- A second way to add records to the basket is directly from the Full View of the record. During your search session while viewing a record simply click the "Add to Bookshelf" link from "My Options" in the navigation toolbar.
Broadening or Narrowing a Search
If a search strategy results in too few or too many hits, it is possible to refine the search to produce more or less records. This can be done in one of two ways, both of which are accessed from the Results List, as operations that be can be conducted to the "Whole record set".
Use the Rank Set screen to enter an additional search term you want the system to use to re-execute your search. The Rank Sets lists your previous search argument at the top of the screen. There is a Boolean AND between each field.
Records will be ranked according to a formula that takes into account the number of times the word appears in a record, the number of times the word appears in the entire database, and the weight given to the word, for example, if the word appears in the title, it may be given a greater weight.
If a search strategy results in too few or too many hits, it is possible to refine the search in order to produce a larger or smaller results list. From the Results List click on the "Refine" link. The Refine screen appears, which allows you add another search term to your query.
You can define how the new query and the old query are to be combined. Selecting AND or NOT results in a narrowed down search. Selecting OR results in a broadened search, returning more records whereas selecting AND results in a narrower search, returning less records.
Once you have entered a new query and click the "Go" button, a new Results List displays that includes your newly concatenated search argument.
The CGP offers users three views of the bibliographic data in the records: Standard, Short, and MARC. The standard view is the default view. This may be changed in the Preferences under "My Options" or it may be changed from within any view of the record. Records can be e-mailed or saved to your Bookshelf from any record view.
Locate in a Library
The Standard View does not convey the complete bibliographic record. It does, however, have features other views do not have. This view has active links to holdings information, to similar records through browse lists (e.g., records that have the same subjects), and to the online publication if available.
The short view displays bibliographic data in a format reminiscent of the bibliography or footnote; format; no name or numeric tags are used to identify data elements. This view does not contain active hyperlinks.
The MARC (MAchine Readable Cataloging) format view conveys the complete bibliographic record. Rather than using name tags for the fields, numerical MARC tags are used, e.g., 245 = title. This view is most helpful to library personnel. This view does not contain active hyperlinks.
If you need a paper copy, CD-ROM, or a librarians' expert assistance, clicking on the "Locate in a Library" feature within the displayed record will find a Federal depository library (FDL) that has the particular publication. You will be able to search for the depository library nearest you by state, city, or area code. The Locate in a Library feature works with the Federal Depository Library Directory (FDLD), which the FDL Librarians can edit in real time, to provide the most current information. For more information about Federal Depository Libraries and to access the public view of the FDLD, please see: "http://www.gpo.gov/libraries/".
Click on the "Bookshelf" link from the My Options menu to see an existing list of records you selected and saved to a temporary buffer. The Documents on Bookshelf screen only displays records placed on the Bookshelf during your current search session.
The Bookshelf function enables you select records to be set aside for printing or e-mailing at a later time, but during the same session.
Click on the "Preferences" link in order to set display preferences for search results and records in the CGP. Preferences are good for the current session only. Once you leave the CGP, the system reverts back to default settings.
From the preferences page you may choose to have 3, 10 (the default setting), 15, or 20 brief records to display on a page. You may also choose the format of the record view to be brief, extended, short, standard, or just the title and a link to the Internet publication.
For narrow searches or for when you expect you might get few results from your search, you may choose to have the standard record view display automatically rather than clicking into the record from a results list.
You may choose to have 15, 10, or 5 records returned as the maximum to employ this feature. You may also choose 0 (zero) if you don't want the standard view to be displayed automatically. The system default is zero.
When you enter a successful search query, a Results List is created. The Results List redisplays your search query, provides sorting options, and gives the number of records that satisfied your query. Records are displayed in the results list by the default sort of Year in descending order (d) then by title.
Up to 1,500 records can be displayed in the Results List. You can view the Results List only for your last search by clicking on the "Results List" link from the navigation at the top of the page.
You can view a cumulative list of earlier searches within the same search session by clicking on the "Previous Searches" link from the My Options menu, choosing a search set, and clicking "View". Other options for Previous Searches include the ability to "Delete", and "Combine" search sets. Browse searches are not included in previous searches.
|Browsers, Fonts, Links
Web Browser Requirements
The CGP is best viewed with a Web browser configured to support Unicode-based characters.
Character Sets and Unicode
The catalog records are encoded in the Unicode character set. Unicode allows for the display of a large range of alphabets and diacritics (also known as accent marks) and special characters.
DISPLAYING NON-ENGLISH CHARACTERS
If you are seeing strange characters in some of the CGP records, it may be because of your browser. There may be titles in the collection that are in non-Western European alphabets. To view these records correctly, you need to use a Web browser, which is set up to display these languages.
In general, your browser should support Unicode (UTF-8 character set) display, and must have a suitable font available.
The Arial Unicode MS font provides the most complete support for Unicode characters.
If Arial Unicode MS is not available to you, other fonts can be used with the Web OPAC. For information on other fonts that support Unicode, see the Resources link at Links to Unicode Resources.
GPO has tested the CGP for pop-ups. When new windows are opened in the CGP, they are NOT considered popups and will be ignored by browser pop-up blockers.
Linking to the CGP
You are welcome to link to any of the CGP pages. Since the URLs that appear in your browser are unique to search sessions, GPO is providing persistent URLs (PURL) for your use. For those who prefer to use a GPO-assigned PURL for access, those appear in parentheses:
Government Information Locator Service (GILS) Archive
The Government Information Locator Service (GILS) was created in 1994 to identify public information resources within the Federal Government, describe the information available in these resources, and assist in obtaining the information.
Although now obsolete, the GILS application is available as an archive encompassing GILS records from December 7, 1994 through September 2, 2008 at: GILS Archive Zip File. The GILS archive Zip File is also accessible via a link at the bottom of the basic search page.
For additional information about GILS, please see the readme.txt file contained within the Zip file.
If you have questions or comments, please use the askGPO help service
at: askGPO. When submitting a question, please choose the category "Federal Depository Libraries" and the appropriate subcategory under "Catalog of U.S. Government Publications", if any, in order to ensure that your question is routed to the correct area.