Date of this Version
RQ 32, no.4, Summer 1993, p. 517-24
While several guides to the Parliamentary Papers exist, they are too lengthy for quick reference, are outdated, use unfamiliar terminology, and assume a previous knowledge of British government. Two other factors can make the guides confusing. First, the use of the term Parliamentary Papers is not always clear. It is sometimes applied, as it is in this article, to the entire range of papers produced by and for Parliament. Sometimes, however, it is applied more narrowly and refers only to a portion of the Papers also known as the Sessional Papers. Secondly, the available guides do not always indicate whether a type of paper or title relates to the House of Commons, to the House of Lords, or to both houses. Even with guides in hand, gaining a rudimentary understanding of the Papers' organization and indexing may require painstaking and time-consuming investigation.
This article gives a simple outline of the types of Parliamentary Papers, their scope, and their access tools. It will give a brief description and history of each of the four types of Papers with citations for specific titles, followed by a brief discussion of available indexes with citations to important indexes. We hope to help librarians cope with reference questions about the Papers, whether interpreting a single citation or teaching users to perform extensive subject searches. We also hope to encourage librarians to suggest the Papers as a primary source of material for term papers.