Have you ever wondered how a congressman with little or no background in science or military matters can speak so intelligently on these topics during interviews or debates in Congress? Part of it may be that they have a good speech writer or congressional staff. Another reason may be that they have read a CRS Report on that topic.
CRS Reports are produced by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a department within the Library of Congress. The CRS writes reports that provide policy and legal analysis for members of Congress. Usually they tackle complex topics and attempt to examine the issue from all sides.
The CRS was originally called the Legislative Reference Service when it was created through legislation in 1914. Further legislation in 1970 changed its name to Congressional Research Service and expanded its obligations to Congress. Now each of the reports produced by the CRS are a direct result of congressional directives and guidance.
CRS Reports are perfect for anyone researching a topic of congressional importance because they provide a concise overview of the topic with references to primary authority. The great thing for law students is that CRS Reports are public information. The caveat with that though is there is no centralized website where the public can access these reports. Luckily for you though, I have included a few places below where you can access CRS Reports and find information about the Congressional Research Service:
- Congressional Research Service Homepage
- ProQuest Congressional – provides access to every CRS report that has been produced (Georgia State Law Only, sign in with MyLaw ID)
- University of North Texas – allows you to search for CRS Reports or browse by topic
- Federation of American Scientists – indexed CRS Reports that addresses national security, foreign policy and related topics
- U.S. Department of State – browse CRS Reports from 1999 – present on foreign policy and relations by date, region, and topic
- University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce Law Center IP Mall – browse CRS Reports from 1993 – 2011 on intellectual property, cyberlaw and electronic commerce
- University of Maryland Thurgood Marshall Law Library – browse CRS Reports from 1993 – present on homeland security, terrorism, and health law and policy
- National Council for Science and the Environment – search or browse over 2000 CRS Reports on environmental and related topics
So the next time you are trying to impress your friends, dominate trivia night, or start your research paper, give CRS Reports a try.