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 started maintaining a publicly accessible research website in 2018.
What is the Congressional Research Service?
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
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 Unit
While CRS publications are rarely distributed to federal depository libraries, we do have a commercially published set:
- Title: Major Studies and Issue Briefs of the Congressional Research Service
- Dates covered: from 1916 - 2004
- Format: microfilm
- Indexes: some, but not all indexes, to the microfilm
Finding CRS Publications Online
In the past, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) did 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, would post the reports on their websites. The CRS began publishing reports online in 2018. Below are major online collections of CRS Reports.
- CRS Reports
- Reports published directly by the Congressional Research Service. Began in 2018.
- Congressional Research Service Reports - UNT
- Integrated, searchable access to many full-text CRS reports available online since 1990. Over 15,000 reports are available from this site. Ceased adding new reports after 2018.
- Every CRS Report
- Provides reports published online by the CRS and over 5,000 reports archived by UNT.
- Congressional Research Reports - Federation of American Scientists
- Selected reports by categories such as "Secrecy and Information Policy."
- CRS Reports in Homeland Security/Terrorism and Health Law & Policy
- From the University of Maryland, the Thurgood Marshall Law Library maintains an online archive of reports published from 1993 to 2013.
Find Out More
- CRS Reports - from LLRX.com
- Archived article from the Law Library Resource Xchange is still useful for its historical overview of the CRS.
- Congressional Research Service Products: Taxpayers Should Have Easy Access
- The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) issued a report in 2003 to promote easier public access to CRS publications. Excellent explanation of the time frame beginning in 1952 when the reports were not available to the general public. Background information about CRS is included.
- Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports
- Handy research guide from the Dudley Knox Library at the Naval Postgraduate School. Has links to additional sites that collect CRS Reports.
- Why I Quit the Congressional Research Service
- One former insider's 2015 view of the CRS, its history, and its relationship with Congress.