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Government Information: Finding Government (Public) Policy

Looking for government (public) policy?

You will find many sources containing policy documents or information about policy topics in this "Government Information" subject page: explore the links in the "Contents" box to the left or try doing a Google search.   HOWEVER, there is no one "correct" or "all inclusive" way to find government policy or information (analysis) about policy decisions - and most research questions will only need a particular set of policy documents based on the research question, itself. (Please see a few other challenges, listed below.)

At any time during your research process:

Please feel free to contact the Government Information Librarian, Hélène LeBlanc < hleblanc@wlu.ca >, with any questions on finding government (public) policy or to set up an appointment for guided help on your particular policy research topic.

Points to keep in mind when searching for public policy (or why finding policy can be so difficult)
  • there are many types of policy documents (some quite complex, technical &/or legal), and policy research usually requires finding the ones you really need (e.g. What level or jurisdiction of government is most responsible for your policy topic? Are you looking for employment policy or policy around international relations? etc.) - and understanding what these policy documents (often called "instruments") do and/or how they interact (i.e. Do you need financial or legislative policy documents? How do other levels of government policy & their documents intersect?, etc.);
  • not all policy documents have the word "Policy" in their titles: there are, however, many government publications that can be used to piece together the policy information being sought;
  • government web sites with links to "Policy(ies)" are a great start, but are often incomplete, out of date, have broken links and/or are not necessarily the policy documents you really need to find;
  • not all policy documents are "findable" through web searches:
    • online policy documents may be located in government databases or on sub-pages not accessible by web crawlers; 
    • older policy documents may exist only on paper or in microform (microfiche or microfilm);
  • not all policy documents are actually posted online:  
    • some current ones are readily available but may need to be sought by contacting the authoring departments or ministries;
    • some documents may only be obtainable by placing "Freedom of Information" (FOI) or "Access to Information" (ATI) requests to the federal, provincial, territorial, state, regional or municipal governments who authored them. 

Again, at any time in your research process:

Please feel free to contact the Government Information Librarian, Hélène LeBlanc < hleblanc@wlu.ca > with any questions on finding government (public) policy or to set up an appointment for guided help on your particular policy research topic.

Getting started

One way to get started: search for background information &/or current events on your policy topic…

To find current information about policy issues, along with citations to primary sources (i.e. policy & other government documents), look at:

  • Media (e.g. mainstream news sources – newspapers in print & online; internet news sites; tv; radio; magazines);
  • Academic journals (e.g. Library’s subject pages for Political Science OR Social Work OR Communication Studies OR Legal Information, etc.) & recent books (e.g. use Omni);​​​​
  • Official government sources (e.g. internet & in print): explore the websites of any departments, ministries, agencies, boards or commission who might be responsible for the policy topic;
  • Activist, think tank, association &/or non-governmental organization (NGO) information (e.g. websites, listservs, blogs, Facebook, other social media, alternative press): explore the websites of any people or organizations who might have a reaction to the policy existing or disappearing, but BE AWARE of bias & misinformation. Always read the "About Us" first -- or research who the author or speaker is. For more information, see the Analysis of Government section.

Searching news sources for background information &/or current events:

  1. Check media databases [e.g. Canadian News @ProQuest or Factiva for citations to news or newsy magazine articles about your topic. Do a search across an entire database or search news sources by individual title (e.g. Globe & Mail OR Waterloo Region Record).

    use similar terms for your topic (i.e. labo* OR work* OR employ*);

    define the jurisdiction name (i.e. Toronto* OR Ontario* OR Canad*), but for this search box, where possible, choose the drop-down menu choice for "title of the article", "headline / lead paragraph" or "abstract";

    add terms that usually mean the same thing as “government policy, such as:​​​​​​

    policy OR policies OR government* OR program* OR service* OR initiat*
  2. Check media Web sites [e.g. CBC; CTV; Globe & Mail]; try a controlled Google search such as:

    “intimate partner” & government & (“violence OR violent OR abuse”) & .cbc.ca (select time period OR type in year)

    ** Be aware of the QUALITY of the publisher. **

Page Owner: Hélène LeBlanc

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Last Updated: September 19, 2023 3:28pm