Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.

Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) Search Tips/Help

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What to Search | How to Search | Working with Results | "My Options" | Browsers, Fonts, Links | askGPO

What to Search Go to the top of the window

Catalogs screen shot

The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications (CGP) is the finding tool for electronic and print publications from the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the U.S. government. These publications make up the National Bibliography of U.S. Government Publications. The CGP contains more than 500,000 descriptive records for historical and current publications and provides direct links to those that are available online. The cataloging records currently date from July 1976 to the present and plans are underway to include records for publications dating back to the late 1800s.

Basic, advanced, expert, and browse searches are used on this "full catalog".

Other Catalogs to Search

Other catalogs contain record subsets of the "full catalog" described above. These catalogs provide a first step to narrow one's search. They also contain indexing specific to the content. For example, ISSN numbers can be searched in the Periodicals Catalog.

Cross-Catalog Searching:

Multiple catalogs can be searched simultaneously. Click on the Catalogs to Search link and check the catalogs you wish to search.

How to Search Go to the top of the window

Search options screen shot

The CGP can be searched by several different methods: Basic, Advanced, Expert, and Browse. Brief search hints are on all of the search pages. In addition to the search hints, the following are rules for all types of searches:


This is the CGP Basic Search page, which is the default page for those who enter the catalog from

Login Search screen shot

To conduct a Basic Search, choose the index you want to search, e.g., keyword(s), title, author, or subject. Enter your search term(s) in the box and press "GO". Use quotes around phrases, use Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) between terms, or apply any of the other rules listed above to get more precise search results.

Once you have conducted a search you begin to work within the catalog. To do another Basic Search, click on BASIC in the catalog's top navigation. The page that is returned is slightly different from the first Basic Search page. You can formulate a search as you did initially or you can create a search by working with your previous search results. See "Working with Results" below.

Basic Search screen shot


The Advanced Search allows you to search up to three word groups simultaneously with your choice of Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) between the groups and your choice of indexes to search. The words and/or phrases you choose to search do not have to be searched in the same index. Many index options are in the drop down boxes. The more indexes or terms that are searched, the narrower your search becomes.

For specific subject searches of LC, MeSH, and NASA subject headings, the ? must be used if you do not have the exact heading. For example: In addition to the Advanced Search forms, you may use the limit search options located in the lower part of the screen. Limit your search further by language, format, year, or choose another "catalog" to search within.

Advanced Search screen shot

Item Number Search

In order to search all formats of an Item Number, you must use truncation (?) after the Item Number.


The Expert Search uses the Common Command Language (CCL) to search for words or headings in several different indexes at once. Codes must be used to indicate the index to be searched. The syntax of an Expert Search is:

<index>=<search term> [Boolean operator <index>=<search term>]


index = the code of the word index to be searched, such as 'wti' (words in title), 'wsu' (words in subject) etc.

search term = is the word or phrase you are looking for. You can use truncation and masking (wildcard characters) operators here if required (e.g. 'national*' or 'wom!n').

Boolean operator = AND, OR, or NOT to combine multiple terms in the statements.

If necessary, parentheses can be used to prioritize parsing of the command.

Example: WTI="migratory birds" AND WUR=http://purl

This search will retrieve records with migratory birds as a phrase anywhere in a title and the record will also have a link to the online version of the publication.

CCL Codes
005 Date of record ****
APN Author begins (last name first) *
BNO Bill Number
CAA Corporate/Agency Author Keywords
CAU Corporate/Agency Author begins *
COP Conference Proceeding Keywords
CON Conference Proceedings begins *
GDI Item Number
GVD SuDoc Class Number
ISBN ISBN (omit hyphens)
ISSN ISSN (use hyphen)
LCC Library of Congress Class number begins *
LCI Library of Congress Class
SRS Series begins *
SSN Series Number
SUB Subject begins *
SUD SuDoc class number begins *
SUL Library of Congress Subjects *
SUM MeSH Subjects *
SUN NASA Subjects *
SYS System Number
TIT Title, title variations, form title begins *
TPR Title: proper (omit initial article) *
WAU Author Keywords
WFM Format **
WGS Geographic Subjects
WLCS Library of Congress Subjects
WLN Language Code ***
WNEW New records by date ****
WNC Contents
WNO All Notes
WNO Contract Number
WNO Shipping List Number
WNO Technical Report Number
WPL Publication Place
WPU Publisher Keywords
WRD Keywords
WSM MeSH Subjects
WSN Stock Number
WSR Series Keywords
WSU Subject Keywords
WTI Title Keywords
WYR Year of Publication

* Indicates a Browse search. Used in the Expert Search, however, it returns the brief results list instead of the browse list. NOTE: When using a code for a Browse Search, the terms need to be entered exactly as they appear in the record or a truncation character (?) must be used. Otherwise no records will be returned. For example:

SRS=water resources investigations report or use a ? mark example:
SRS= Water?

** Format is system format. To search use codes: BK=book, SE=Serial, MP=Map, CF=CD/DVD/Floppy, VM=Visual Materials or MX=Mixed Media.

WFM=MP AND WRD=Louisiana
WFM=SE AND WRD="House Reports"

*** Language Code is the MARC language code. Codes can be found on the Library of Congress MARC Codes page at:

WLN=ENG AND WRD="tax form"

**** 005, Date of record, is the date the record was created, but also changes any time a record is updated This search may include new and updated records. WNEW, New records by date, contain only new records.

005=200805? For records created or updated in May 2008.
WNEW=200805? For records created in May 2008.
WNEW=200805? AND WUR=http://purl? For EL records created in May 2008.
WNEW=200805? NOT WUR=http://purl? For non-EL records created in May 2008.


Use a Browse Search when you want to browse through and alphabetical or numerical list. Many of the Browse Search options in the drop down menu boxes include "begins with". For example, Title begins with, SuDoc number begins with.

On the left side of each entry on the list, the number of bibliographic records associated with each heading is indicated. You can navigate up and down the alphabetical list using the "Previous Page" and "Next Page" buttons located at the top and bottom of the browse list. If yo wish to move to a different location in the browse list or perform a new Browse Search, type a word or phrase in the "Enter Word/s to Search" field located at the top of the page. If browsing a new index, choose the type of index you wish to search from the drop-down menu and then press the "Go" button.

Working with Results Go to the top of the window

Unsuccessful Searches

Previous Searches

Previous Searches lists sets from past searches and lets you view the records in a set, delete a set from the list or cross sets. From My Options on the navigation bar click the Previous Searches link and a list of previous searches displays. To view a set of records from the list, mark the checkbox next to the set and click the "View" button. Sets can be deleted from the list by marking the checkbox next to the set and clicking the "Delete" button. Marking the checkboxes next to the desired sets and clicking the "Merge" button can merge sets. This allows patrons the option to view all of the records of more than one set at one time. Finally, you can combine sets by selecting the desired sets and clicking the "Combine" button. Clicking the "Combine" button will call up the Select Logical Operation form. Select the desired logical operation and click Combine. You can select to use AND, OR, "First set not second" or "Second set not first". The "First set not second" operation retrieves records that are contained within the first set only. The "Second set not first" operation retrieves records that are contained only in the seconds set.

Results List

When you enter a successful search query, a Results List is created. The Results List redisplays your search query, provides sorting options, and gives the number of records that satisfied your query. Records are displayed in the Results List by the default sort of Year in descending order (d) then by title. Up to 1,500 records can be displayed in the Results list. From the Results List you can also rank and refine your search to broaden or narrow it, add records to your Bookshelf, e-mail records, or create subsets. You can view the Results List only for your last search by clicking on the "Results List" link from "My Options" at the top of the page.

Results options screen shot


The default sort is by Year in descending order (d) and then by title. The sort can easily be changed by clicking on the column headings or by choosing from the sort options:

Year(d)/Title | Year(a)/Title | Title/Year(d) | SuDoc(s)

The set remains in the last order selected, and the sort factor displays at the top of the screen. If the set contains more records than the sort threshold allows the set cannot be sorted.


Bibliographic information within the Results List displays in the (default) Brief View format and lists each matching record in a single row, providing Title, Year of publication, Author, SuDoc Number, and availability of Internet Access.

You can change to the Extended view from Display options link on the Results List page. Alternatively the view can be changed by modifying your preferences within "My Options".

Navigating Through Results: Selecting Records

From the Results List you may choose or "select" all or any number of records. Once selected, there are several options for actions you can take upon these records.

View Selected Records E-mail

You can e-mail records from the search results list, your bookshelf, or from within a specific record. The system allows no more than 20 records to be e-mailed at one time. If you have more than 20 records, you have to "select" 20 at a time and send multiple e-mails.

To initiate the e-mail process, click on the E-mail link to retrieve a form. The default values are for "Selected records" to be e-mailed in the "Standard view". "All records" becomes the default, rather than "Selected," if you have fewer than 20 records in your set. If this format is ok with you, all you need to do is fill-in the designated box with your e-mail address and press the "GO" button.

You may choose to create your own view of the record, include a subject line for the e-mail, or include a text note. TIP: You might want to put the search strategy you used to obtain your results in the text box.

E-mail Selected Records screen shot

The records you e-mail will have the subject line that you define and will be sent from To ensure that you receive e-mail from the CGP, you will want to add to your address book/safe list and to the list of recognizable addresses of any spam filter that may be in place.

Create a Subset

To create a subset, select records from the results list, click on the "Create Subset" link. The subset will display in a Brief View format. The subset of records can be e-mailed or each record of the subset can be viewed in the full format by clicking on the underlined number to the left of the record or by clicking on the title.

Add to Bookshelf

Records can be selected and added to a "Bookshelf" throughout your search session. Once you have completed your search session the contents of the Bookshelf can be e-mailed.

There are two methods exist for placing items into the "Basket":
  1. From the Results List, desired records can be selected by marking the checkboxes to the left of the record. Once you have marked the records you would like to add to the Bookshelf click the "Add to Bookshelf" link. A message will appear confirming that the records have been added to the Bookshelf.

  2. A second way to add records to the basket is directly from the Full View of the record. During your search session while viewing a record simply click the "Add to Bookshelf" link from "My Options" in the navigation toolbar.
When you have finished searching and would like to retrieve the records in your Bookshelf, click the "Bookshelf" link from "My Options" in the navigation toolbar. The Documents on the Bookshelf screen will appear listing all the records you have added to your basket. Records can be deleted from the Bookshelf by clicking the "Delete" link. Additionally, you can view the Full View of the record again by clicking the "full view" link.

Broadening or Narrowing a Search

If a search strategy results in too few or too many hits, it is possible to refine the search to produce more or less records. This can be done in one of two ways, both of which are accessed from the Results List, as operations that be can be conducted to the "Whole record set".


Use the Rank Set screen to enter an additional search term you want the system to use to re-execute your search. The Rank Sets lists your previous search argument at the top of the screen. There is a Boolean AND between each field. Records will be ranked according to a formula that takes into account the number of times the word appears in a record, the number of times the word appears in the entire database, and the weight given to the word, for example, if the word appears in the title, it may be given a greater weight.


If a search strategy results in too few or too many hits, it is possible to refine the search in order to produce a larger or smaller results list. From the Results List click on the "Refine" link. The Refine screen appears, which allows you add another search term to your query.

You can define how the new query and the old query are to be combined. Selecting AND or NOT results in a narrowed down search. Selecting OR results in a broadened search, returning more records whereas selecting AND results in a narrower search, returning less records. Once you have entered a new query and click the "Go" button, a new Results List displays that includes your newly concatenated search argument.

Record Views

The CGP offers users three views of the bibliographic data in the records: Standard, Short, and MARC. The standard view is the default view. This may be changed in the Preferences under "My Options" or it may be changed from within any view of the record. Records can be e-mailed or saved to your Bookshelf from any record view.
Locate in a Library

If you need a paper copy, CD-ROM, or a librarians' expert assistance, clicking on the "Locate in a Library" feature within the displayed record will find a Federal depository library (FDL) that has the particular publication. You will be able to search for the depository library nearest you by state, city, or area code. The Locate in a Library feature works with the Federal Depository Library Directory (FDLD), which the FDL Librarians can edit in real time, to provide the most current information. For more information about Federal Depository Libraries and to access the public view of the FDLD, please see: "".

"My Options" Go to the top of the window

Search options screen shot


Click on the "Bookshelf" link from the My Options menu to see an existing list of records you selected and saved to a temporary buffer. The Documents on Bookshelf screen only displays records placed on the Bookshelf during your current search session. The Bookshelf function enables you select records to be set aside for printing or e-mailing at a later time, but during the same session.


Click on the "Preferences" link in order to set display preferences for search results and records in the CGP. Preferences are good for the current session only. Once you leave the CGP, the system reverts back to default settings.

From the preferences page you may choose to have 3, 10 (the default setting), 15, or 20 brief records to display on a page. You may also choose the format of the record view to be brief, extended, short, standard, or just the title and a link to the Internet publication.

For narrow searches or for when you expect you might get few results from your search, you may choose to have the standard record view display automatically rather than clicking into the record from a results list. You may choose to have 15, 10, or 5 records returned as the maximum to employ this feature. You may also choose 0 (zero) if you don't want the standard view to be displayed automatically. The system default is zero.

Results List

When you enter a successful search query, a Results List is created. The Results List redisplays your search query, provides sorting options, and gives the number of records that satisfied your query. Records are displayed in the results list by the default sort of Year in descending order (d) then by title. Up to 1,500 records can be displayed in the Results List. You can view the Results List only for your last search by clicking on the "Results List" link from the navigation at the top of the page.

Previous Searches

You can view a cumulative list of earlier searches within the same search session by clicking on the "Previous Searches" link from the My Options menu, choosing a search set, and clicking "View". Other options for Previous Searches include the ability to "Delete", and "Combine" search sets. Browse searches are not included in previous searches.

Browsers, Fonts, Links Go to the top of the window

Web Browser Requirements

The CGP is best viewed (recommended) with the Firefox 1.0.6 or higher web browser on both PC and Macintosh. You need a Web browser (Internet Explorer 5.x or higher; Firefox 1.0.6 or higher, Netscape 6.2 or higher) configured to support Unicode-based characters. Windows users need Windows 95 or higher (Windows 2000 is recommended) with appropriate Global IMEs (input method editors) installed. Macintosh users need OS9.x with the appropriate language packs installed or OS X. Recommended Macintosh browser (Firefox 1.0.6 or higher).

Character Sets and Unicode

The catalog records are encoded in the Unicode character set. Unicode allows for the display of a large range of alphabets and diacritics (also known as accent marks) and special characters.


If you are seeing strange characters in some of the CGP records, it may be because of your browser. There may be titles in the collection that are in non-Western European alphabets. To view these records correctly, you need to use a Web browser, which is set up to display these languages. In general, your browser should support Unicode (UTF-8 character set) display, and must have a suitable font available.

In older browsers, some characters in non-Western European languages will show up as groups of four letters and numbers. For instance, in Netscape 4.x, records with Chinese characters will display strings such as \65B0\653F.

To set the browser character encoding:

Internet Explorer:
From the View menu, select Encoding, then click on Auto-Select.

From the View menu, select Character coding, then Auto-detect, then All [for Netscape 6.x] or Universal [for Netscape 7.x].

The Arial Unicode MS font provides the most complete support for Unicode characters. It is available with the following Microsoft products: Publisher 2000, Office 2000 Professional, Office.

If Arial Unicode MS is not available to you, other fonts can be used with the Web OPAC. For information on other fonts that support Unicode, see the Useful resources link at


GPO has tested the CGP for pop-ups. When new windows are opened in the CGP, they are NOT considered popups and will be ignored by browser pop-up blockers.

Linking to the CGP

You are welcome to link to any of the CGP pages. Since the URLs that appear in your browser are unique to search sessions, GPO is providing persistent URLs (PURL) for your use. For those who prefer to use a GPO-assigned PURL for access, those appear in parentheses:

askGPO Go to the top of the window

If you have questions or comments, please use the askGPO help service at: When submitting a question, please choose the category "Federal Depository Libraries" and the appropriate subcategory under "Catalog of U.S. Government Publications", if any, in order to ensure that your question is routed to the correct area.

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