Congressional Research Service
What is the Congressional Research Service?
This guide will provide a brief overview of the CRS and some suggestions for locating its reports. It should be noted that the CRS does not maintain a publicly accessible research website.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS)
- is the non-partisan policy research arm of the United States Congress
- has been a component of the Library of Congress since 1914
- produces documents at the request of and for the use of members of Congress
- provides Congress with research and objective analysis on a wide variety of topics
- is often regarded as a source second to none, because of its non-partisan, timely, and accurate information
- CRS staff also provide testimony in Congressional hearings, conduct seminars, briefings, and institutes for Congressional members and their staff
- over the past two decades has even provided assistance to members and staff of foreign legislative bodies
- has been criticized for the lack of free public access to its documents (see, for example, the 2003 Report by the Project on Government Oversight regarding taxpayer access to CRS products, and the editorial in the 2/12/03 issue of Roll Call comparing the secrecy of the CRS with the CIA)
The CRS produces a number of types of documents.
- The most commonly requested documents are reports.
- The purpose of a report is to clearly define the issue in the legislative context.
- Reports may take many forms including policy analysis, economic studies, statistical reviews, and legal analyses
- A second type of CRS document is the Issue Briefs. These short documents include:
- issue definitions
- background and policy analyses
- legislation passed and pending
- a bibliography of hearings, reports, documents, and other congressional actions
- a chronology of events
- reference sources
- Other document types include:
- Appropriations Reports (usually released as a Long Report)
- Electronic Briefing Books
- Info Packs
- Congressional distribution memoranda
Finding CRS Publications in the Government Documents Department
While CRS publications are rarely distributed to federal depository libraries, we do have a commercially published set:
- Major Studies and Issue Briefs of the Congressional Research Service
- from 1916 - 2004
- on microfilm
- some, but not all indexes, to the microfilm
Finding CRS Publications Online
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) does not provide direct public access to its reports, requiring citizens to request them from their Member of Congress. Some Members, as well as several non-profit groups, have posted the reports on their Web sites. Below is a listing of major collection sites that lead to more specialized collection sites.
- Congressional Research Service Reports - UNT
- Integrated, searchable access to many full-text CRS reports available on the Web since 1990. 6500 reports and counting are available from this site.
- Open CRS Network
- A project of the Center for Democracy and Technology through the cooperation of several organizations and collectors of CRS Reports, Open CRS provides citizens access to CRS Reports already in the public domain and encourages Congress to provide public access to all CRS Reports.
- The Memory Hole
- The Memory Hole had copied many reports from the Web sites of Congressmen Mark Green and Christopher Shays who provided a gateway to a CRS internal database before it was shut down.
- Thurgood Marshall Law Library
- From the University of Maryland, the Law Library maintains an online archive of reports from 1993.
- National Library for the Environment
- Browse or search 2225 CRS Reports on environmental and related topics.
- Penny Hill Press
- Penny Hill Press provides free browse-access to CRS reports issued since 1993. For full text, you have to order and pay for the report, $19.95 for students.
- U.S. State Department
- CRS Reports and Issue Briefs on a variety of topics. Emphasis on foreign relations. May browse by date (1999 to present), region, or topic. Updated frequently with recent publications.
Find Out More
- CRS Employment Home Page
- This site is the CRS employment page, but it does provide some background information.
- CRS Reports - from LLRX.com
- From the Law Library Resource Xchange, this site provides an historical overview of CRS and how to find publications online. Includes links to many additional sites with CRS reports.
- POGO CRS Products Report
- The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) issued a report in 2003 to promote easier public access to CRS publications. Background information about CRS is included.