MPs and Senators study, debate and vote on a variety of issues and most of them wind up impacting most of us.  Ever wondered how they do their research?  As outlined in our entry of March 22, the Parliamentary Information and Research Service (PIRS)  has researchers on staff who “obtain and analyze material, and write…research papers at the request of Senators and Members of the House of Commons.”

Those research papers are freely available from the Library of Parliament webpage and provide you with a well-researched, cited, and readable summary of issues being studied in Parliament.  Why not take advantage of this tax-payer funded service when conducting your own research?

Here are some of the latest reports:

Researching older issues?  PIRS has reports on-site from as far back as 1991, though the majority are from 2006 – 2009.  For example:

The array of topics covered by PIRS is impressive, so if you’re looking for some primary source documents or if you are looking for something from the government’s perspective you may be well-served by the documents you find on their site!

Need to look at US government documents that don’t seem to be publicly available?  All may not be lost!  Thanks to the tireless efforts of journalists, researchers, and average citizens thousands of documents that would otherwise remain closed to public scrutiny are made available each year through Freedom of  Information Act (FOIA)  requests.  Even better:  many of these folks  have contributed their FOIA documents to freely searchable web archives.  Here are a few of the best:

  • National Security Archive at George Washington University: “collects and publishes declassified documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. The Archive also serves as a repository of government records on a wide range of topics pertaining to the national security, foreign, intelligence, and economic policies of the United States.”
  • GovernmentAttic: “provides electronic copies of hundreds of interesting Federal Government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act….(including) fascinating historical documents, reports on items in the news, oddities…and government bloopers.”
  • Electronic Frontier Foundation:  This site focuses on collecting and disseminating documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act “on controversial government surveillance programs, lobbying practices, and intellectual property initiatives.”
  • American Civil Liberties Union:   This portion of the ACLU website provides access to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act “relating to the abuse and torture of prisoners in U.S. detention centers overseas.”

Note,  some US Federal Departments and Agencies also have well-organized and fairly comprehensive collections of their own FOIA documents, such as

Huge kudos to Sheryl Adam for suggesting this topic and for finding these sites!!!  Watch the blog for a future entry on similar Canadian sources of FOI documents.

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