Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fundamentals of Government Information

The Book

Fundamentals of Government Information
Eric J. Forte; Cassandra J. Harnett; Andrea L. Sevetson

This book was my main text for last semester's Government Documents class. We acknowledged that most Government Publications are being produced digitally as a result of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), but the book served as a guide to the branches of government and the kinds of publications they produce.

Technical Merit

This book was reasonably well written for a textbook on the publications proceeding form government sources. It is initially organized by branch and then topically (by type of information sought). Therefore, it begins by making clear distinctions based on the source of information and ends by showing how each branch (both state and federal) contributes to the topic.

I would give this volume 4 out of 5 stars for technical merit. I found the chapters to be simple and easy to digest. That is no small task when describing how the government works.


Each chapter ends with review questions that thoroughly test the reader's application of the concepts found in the previous chapter. If you have the unfortunate luck of taking the course with a professor who assigns these questions weekly, you will find that they make you work hard for the answers. However, as a direct result of these weekly headaches, I feel ready to tackle any inquiry that asks me to search for government information.

Possibly the single best feature of this book is the "Sources Mentioned in This Chapter," located after the exercises. Since most Government Publications are born digital, it is helpful to have a listing of all web pages referenced in the chapter. These web pages, though by no means permanent, are a great place to begin searching for the type of information mentioned in the chapter.

All in all, this textbook serves it's purpose and equips readers to sift through government publications and use the rich resources that are provided by the government.
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