About This Site
This web site began as a NaNoWriMo manuscript in 2011 by Daniel Cornwall, who was inspired to create a resource after some bad factual information in the graphic novel, 30 Days of Night, and very interesting reference questions he answered for authors on the NaNoWriMo Reference Desk board. Kari Mofford, took over the site in 2017 to continue the mission of providing solid factual information for fiction writers, as well as others who may find this a valuable resource, with government links.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY GOVERNMENT INFORMATION?
For the purpose of this site, government information is either information directly published by a local, state/provincial, national, or international government agency OR any information indexed by a government agency.
An example of the first type would be “National Intelligence – A Consumer’s Guide” published by the Directorate of National Intelligence and available at http://www.fas.org/irp/dni/consumer.pdf. This publication describes the nation’s dozen or so intelligence agencies in plain English for the benefit of policy makers.
An example of the second type would be the article “Memories aren’t made of this: Amnesia at the movies.” This article was originally published in the British Medical Journal, which is not a government journal. However, it was indexed in Medline, a government database, so we include it as government information.
This site will be highly focused on material produced by US government agencies although the scope of this material is worldwide (i.e. Library of Congress Country Studies) and beyond (NASA). Some coverage of Canada and the UK is also available.
WHY SHOULD I USE GOVERNMENT INFORMATION?
If you are an American writer, the number one reason you should use government information is because you’ve paid for it already with your tax dollars. Local, state/provincial and federal governments in North America collect information on a huge range of subjects and much of it has been made freely available either on the web or in paper. Much of this information is considered valuable or interesting enough that private vendors try to sell them to people. For US federal documents this is mostly legal as much of US federal documents are public domain. But after looking through this site, you won’t have to pay.
Another reason to use government information is that with some exceptions in controversial fields, government documents are fairly balanced and reasonably comprehensive. They’ve been written by subject experts from within and without government agencies. In some cases, like NASA or some aspects of military history, government publications are going to be the best resources.
On very politically charged issues, a government document might not be the most trustworthy resource. Many times, subjects are uncontroversial (i.e. average earnings of an EMT or a meatpacker). If you have reason to think a resource might be skewed, treat it like Wikipedia. If the document has references, check those out. Use the terms and vocabulary you find in the government document to find alternative resources.
From here, you should either go to the Table of Contents and browse the resources, or try using either the search box in the upper right corner of every page or browsing my tag cloud. If you don’t find what you’re looking for and you’re willing to have a public reply, contact me. I’ll look into your question and post the answer in a blog post.