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 Congressional Research Service Products: Taxpayers Should Have Easy Access by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) regarding taxpayer access to CRS products, and the article Should Congress Research Service Reports be Public? in the 7/14/2015 issue of Roll Call discussion the policy created in 1952.

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:

  • 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. Over 15,000 reports and counting are available from this site.
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 Employment Home Page
This site is the CRS employment page, but it does provide some background information.
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. 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.
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