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  • InsideTrack
  • February 01, 2017

    Legal Research: Where to Find Congressional Research Service Reports

    Congressional Research Service reports are an excellent way to get a quick, coherent, nonpartisan analysis of issues of interest to members of Congress. Use free websites or your favorite subscription service to search and download these reports.

    Carol Hassler

    capitol column

    Feb. 1, 2017 – Whether you need help finding Medicare enrollment statistics, facts on Columbus Day, a summary of Wisconsin’s Emergency Management resources, or exceptions to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, look to Congressional Research Service reports for information.

    Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports are widely considered to be authoritative and nonpartisan sources for in-depth information on a wide variety of legal and social topics. Similar to Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau analysis, CRS reports provide information to committees and individual members of Congress.

    Turn to a CRS report for trusted policy and legal analysis, economic studies, and statistical reviews. CRS policy and research experts operate out of five divisions: American law; domestic social policy; foreign affairs, defense and trade; government and finance; and resources, sciences, and industry.

    CRS reports typically include an executive summary and detailed table of contents; some may include images, maps, and data tables. Many reports, such as Small Business Size Standards: A Historical Analysis of Contemporary Issues, are frequently updated.

    How to Access CRS Reports

    CRS reports are posted on – but the website is only accessible to members of Congress and their staff. Thankfully, there are a number of websites where CRS reports are made available to the public by members of Congress.

    Carol HasslerCarol Hassler, M.L.S., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, is the Web services librarian for the Wisconsin State Law Library. She is a current member of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin, a chapter of the American Association of Law Libraries.

    Some of the websites listed below have ways to filter by date, or show consolidated update history for specific report titles to help researchers locate the latest version. Many websites aim to collect and provide free access to CRS reports.

    Here are ways to access CRS reports:

    Free Websites provides free access to every CRS report on Congress’ internal website. So far, more than 8,000 titles are currently available for searching or bulk download. Browse by topic or search for a report by keyword. This website provides revision history for many of its reports to help researchers locate the latest version of each title, or download older versions easily. Follow on Twitter @EveryCRSReport or subscribe to the New Reports RSS feed to keep up with new additions.

    The University of North Texas Digital Library's CRS Report Collection
    The University of North Texas Digital Library provides searchable access to CRS reports from 1990 to present and includes more than 38,000 items. Scroll down toward the bottom of the page to browse reports by subject. Subscribe to its Latest Additions feed for updates.
    Enter keywords to search through more than 33,000 reports. This is another site that helps users navigate different versions of reports. The latest version of each title appears in search results, but older versions can be downloaded from the report landing page as well.

    Federation of American Scientists CRS Reports
    The Federation of American Scientists hosts several CRS reports on their website, organized by topic.

    Stanford University Social Sciences Resource Group's CRS Report Collection
    This website searches across archived versions of several known CRS report websites and is curated by Stanford University staff.

    Subscription Websites

    Several websites offer subscription access to CRS reports, including HeinOnline. CRS reports are part of HeinOnline’s Congressional Documents collection, and researchers can browse by title or search across the full text of the reports.

    HeinOnline is one of several legal databases available to State Bar members through the Wisconsin State Law Library. Learn more about HeinOnline – including how to gain access – in “Using MyHein to Minimize Your Legal Research Time,” in the June 3, 2015, issue of InsideTrack.

    The Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin's Public Relations Committee coordinates regular contributions by its members to InsideTrack.

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