When members of Congress need the best possible objective, non-partisan research on any of the diverse issues Congress faces, they can turn to their very own Congressional Research Service (CRS), which boasts a staff of "nationally recognized experts in a range of issues and disciplines, including law, economics, foreign affairs, public administration, the information, social, political sciences, natural sciences." (About the Congressional Research Service.) The rest of us… not so much. Congress has always maintained that it has no obligation to share CRS reports. They're not secret, but Congress makes no effort to release them, so although CRS reports do show up on the web, they appear only in selected, topically-focused collections.
But there are private suppliers for Congressional Research Service reports. And with the Zief Library's recent purchase of CRS reports (through LexisNexis's Congressional Research Digital Collection), researchers at the University of San Francisco may dig into the most complete collection of CRS reports — thousands upon thousands of them — available outside Capitol Hill.
USF’s Congressional Research Service Reports are presented as part of the much larger LexisNexis Congressional service, which is available to all current members of the USF community. Right now CRS reports are available from the early 1940s through 2003. This spring LexisNexis has begun extending the collection both retrospectively and prospectively, and by some time in about two years CRS reports from 1916 to the present should be available. [Update, 5.18.06: LexisNexis's coverage of CRS reports now extends from the early 1940s through January 2006.]
USF researchers can search CRS reports by following these steps.
- Sign on to LexisNexis Congressional [USF community only. If you are connecting from off campus, follow the "Remote Access" instructions.]
- Select "Advanced Search" tab
- Check the "Search within" checkbox to the left of "CRS Reports" and uncheck all the others.
- Set a date range for your search (The default date restriction is "most recent 2 years." You can pick other date ranges from the "Restrict by: date" pull-down menu.)
The LexisNexis Congressional search engine searches the detailed descriptions of CRS but not the reports' full text. The reports themselves are available in PDF format.
You can restrict searches to the CRS reports' titles, subjects, or authors, and if you have a CRS report number (e.g., 92-959), you can enter that number as a search term.
Smaller collections of CRS reports are available for free on the web. If you're not with USF and your institution can't swing the cost of LexisNexis's CRS reports, these sites may lead you to useful reports.