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United Nations Research Guide: Introduction

Guide to information created by the UN and the UN Family of Organizations. Grateful acknowledgement to Jim Church, University of California Berkeley Libraries, whose work is the basis for this guide.

Getting Started

Northwestern University Libraries has been a Depository for the United Nations since 1947 and also owns documents and publications from the League of Nations. Current UN Documents are primarily online and available using the tools below.  Publications (e.g. books, journals, and statistical annuals) are frequently online but may also be found using NUSearch.  For projects requiring extensive, historical work with UN materials (which NUL has in print, microfiche, and online formats) contact govinfo@northwestern.edu to make an appointment.

The United Nations system of documentation is as complex as the UN system of Organizations. The Regulations for the Control and Limitation of Documentation define documents and publications:

  • "A document is a text submitted to a principal organ or a subsidiary organ of the United Nations for consideration by it, usually in connection with item(s) on its agenda."
  • "''United Nations publication' refers to any written material which is issued by the United Nations to the general public."

UN Documents are in other words all the papers, meeting records, and official transcipts produced by the UN as it conducts its business.  Many other international organizations -- for example the WTO, UNESCO, and the FAO -- also have systems of documentation.

UN Publications are material the UN publishes with the intent of informing the general public and the academic community about its work and issues it wishes to address.

Unless noted otherwise created by the Dag Hammarskjold Library at the United Nations in New York.

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