Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Federal Legislation

This guide covers the legislative process as well as a selective list of reference tools for finding legislative materials in print and on the Web.

A hearing is a meeting or session of a Senate, House, Joint, or Special Committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law.

In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about topics of current interest. Most Congressional hearings are published two months to two years after they are held. (GPO Access)

  Hearings can cover:

  • Proposed legislation
  • Research for future legislation
  • Oversight of the Executive Branch
  • Supreme Court Nominations and nominations to other high office
  • Appropriations

People who testify before Congress include:

  • Experts on a subject
  • Lobbyists
  • Members of the Executive Branch
  • Members of the public
  • Other Members of Congress

Subjects include everything that Congress funds, foreign relations, health, and safety

  • House Committee on Unamerican Activities investigations of communism in the United States
  • Health Care
  • Food Safety
  • Horizon Oil Spill
  • Mortgage meltdown
  • Nomination of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court
  • College Football Bowl Championship Series (Antitrust issues)


To locate a hearing in McKeldin Library (GOV DOCS, 4th floor) , first find the hearing using Congressional (Proquest) or WorldCat UMD. Make a note of the call number (listed in Congressional Publications as SUDOC) and the Congress number (often listed in the title) or year the hearing was held.

Hearings are given a call number using the Superintendent of Documents Classification System, typically known as "Su Doc". The Su Doc system organizes publications by the agency that wrote the publication. Congressional hearings begin with "Y4" followed by additional letters and numbers that indicate which committee held the hearing.

1. Use worldcat to identify the hearing's call number. It will begin with Y4 and the Congress in which it took place.
Hearing dates indicate the Congress. Use the charts posted in the Y4 area on the 4th floor to convert dates to Congresses. 
1887 - 1889 =   50th Congress
1987 - 1988 = 100th Congress
2005 - 2006 =   109th Congress

2. Locate the appropriate Congress within the Y4 area of the SuDoc stacks

3. Within the appropriate Congress, search for the hearing by call number.