Tip of the Week: Locating U.S. Presidential Commission Reports

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For at least the past one hundred and thirty years or so, U.S. presidents have established commissions—also called committees, boards, blue ribbon panels, or task forces—to advise them on particular problems or issues. Typically, the group’s task is to analyze a situation, give an explanation as to the cause of the problem, and make recommendations for a change—all of which is usually written up in a final report.

Presidential commissions have been established to explain catastrophes such as the Gulf oil spill, Challenger Space Shuttle accidentPearl Harbor, the AIDS epidemic, and more. There have been many famous advisory groups, such as the Warren Commission (to investigate the assassination of President John F. Kennedy), the Kerner Commission (on the riots of 1967), and the Tower Commission (the President’s Special Review Board on Iran-Contra). Reports from commissions like these are a window into the political climate of a particular point in history and are thus a valuable resource.

About the Reports of U.S. Presidential Commissions Database

Named to the 2018 Reference and User Services Association’s (RUSA) annual list of Best Historical Materials

Reports of U.S. Presidential Commissions and Other Advisory Bodies: A Bibliographic Listing* by Louis W. Bookheim is a unique resource containing the most current and comprehensive listing of publications created by such presidential advisory bodies. The collection has evolved into a bibliographic listing of more than 6,300 reports and other documents from the administrations of Andrew Jackson to Donald Trump. In the database version of this resource, links to the full text of more than 1,700 reports are provided, as well as citations to published government documents and OCLC numbers when applicable.

Browsing the Commission Reports Index

On the main database page, users are immediately presented with the Commission Reports Index. From here, browse or search all indexed or full-text report entries by president, commission name, commission subject, or report title.

Browse by President

Select the President browse option to view a list of administrations for which indexed or full-text commission reports are available.*

Screenshot of Commission Reports Index with President browse option highlighted

Select any president to view his specific list of commissions, councils, or advisory boards. As an example, we’ve selected George W. Bush below.

Screenshot of Commission Reports Index for George W. Bush

*Coverage of presidential administrations extends from Andrew Jackson to Donald Trump. 

Browse by Commission Name

Choose to browse by Commission Name and find a navigable alphabetical list of all commissions for which HeinOnline has entries. Where popular (yet unofficial) commission names are listed, HeinOnline redirects the user to the official commission name.

Screenshot of Commission Reports Index with Commission Name browse option highlighted

Select any commission name to view the available reports for that commission. As an example, we’ve selected Bill Clinton’s Assassination Records Review Board below.

Screenshot of Bill Clinton's Assassination Records Review Board in HeinOnline

Browse by Commission Subject

Use the Commission Subject browse option to find any commission reports that fall under a particular subject.

Screenshot of Commission Reports Index with Commission Subject browse option highlighted

As an example, we’ve selected the subject of Asian Americans below. Use the facets on the left-hand side to filter the results by president or additional related subjects.

Screenshot of search results in Commission Reports Index for subject of Asian Americans

Selected Commission Subjects

The reports in this database have been categorized under hundreds of subjects for your searching convenience. Subjects include:

  • Agriculture
  • AIDS
  • American Indians
  • Bioethics
  • Biotechnology
  • Censorship
  • Challenger Space Shuttle
  • Chemical Warfare
  • Children
  • Cybersecurity
  • Defense
  • Domestic Violence
  • Drug Abuse
  • Education
  • Elections
  • Foreign Aid
  • Gambling
  • Global Warming
  • Gun Control
  • Health Care
  • Identity Theft
  • Immigration
  • International Trade
  • Jobs
  • Labor Disputes
  • Mental Health
  • National Security
  • Nuclear Weapons
  • Organized Crime
  • Prison
  • Refugees
  • Social Security
  • Toxic Substances
  • United Nations
  • Veterans
  • Violence
  • War Criminals
  • Water
  • World Hunger
  • And hundreds more!

Browse by Report Title

Browse by Report Title to find a navigable alphabetical list of all reports for which HeinOnline has entries.

Screenshot of Commission Reports Index with Report Title browse option highlighted

Select any report to be directed to its related commission. As an example, we’ve selected Achieving an AIDS-Free Generation, from President Barack Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

Searching the Commission Reports Index

Additionally from the main database page (or within the Advanced Search option), users can take advantage of the Commission Reports Search Tool.

Screenshot of Commission Reports Search Tool

Use the tool to perform a tailored search for a keyword, president, subject, name/author, or report title relating to a specific commission. As an example, we’ve performed a search for all reports relating to President Bush and the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States, while limiting the results to those published between 2001 and 2005.

More Tips and Tricks

We’re often highlighting tips and tricks on the HeinOnline Blog, ranging from basic concepts to advanced HeinOnline tactics. Check out these recent guides:

Check back with us soon for the next tip, or subscribe to the HeinOnline Blog to have these guides sent right to your inbox.

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