Agencies publish reports of their work in the scholarly and professional literature and may also issue their own reports. It’s easy to make the mistake of skipping the important first step in any search—examining published works for relevant material. This can be done in a traditional research library—using its collection of printed materials or on line by downloading the electronic versions of the publications.
As you search the Internet, it should become apparent that material on agency websites closely tracks their publications.
Key factors when searching are:
Many agencies see their websites as another publication vehicle and they organize the material using the same or similar series as those used in printed reports.
Agencies also add special web based materials such as supplemental web reports or web appliances that allow users to generate their own tables—but these also track the organization of printed reports.
Therefore, one key search strategy is to track the publication series used by an organization and search for material by this series. The NCHS website offers a good example where this approach is applicable. See the following page for an example.
Start by searching for these materials in a Library catalog or services such as Pubmed. Many agency websites also refer researchers to this literature. Once you know the right report, you can use it to find related material by finding where it is located on the agency website.
Extending Searches Beyond the Catalog
Researchers find that these catalog resources are only a starting point in their searches. Specialized cataloging services can help researchers to locate material in the body of a work.
Agencies also create websites that focus on particular topics. For example, statistics related to immunization can be found on a specialized website. This site tracks up to date reports from a variety of sources including the National Immunization Survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and the National Health Interview survey.