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Guide to Government Information

Federal Government Documents Tutorial

Meaning of SuDoc Numbers

The following paragraphs describe how SuDoc numbers are constructed.  This discussion will be helpful to you if you're interested in what these numbers mean, but you don't have to know this information before you make use of it.  You can simply think of SuDoc numbers as a location device to find documents in the bookstacks or Microform Room.

A SuDoc number is made up of several elements, from general to specific as the number is read left to right.  Each complete number uniquely identifies a publication.  The first element identifies the cabinet level department, or independent agency, that issued a document.

A Agriculture Department
C Commerce Department
D Defense Department
HH Health and Human Services Department
PM Office of Personnel Management
SI Smithsonian Institution
but also
X for the title, Congressional Record
Y1 and Y4 for Congress
Y3 for Commissions and Councils

The Y3 and Y4 numbers carry an additional element that specifies the Congressional committee or the commission/council.  This additional element consists of one or two letters and one or two numbers that represent a significant word in the agency's name.  It's called a "cutter number."  Examples:

Y3.Ad9/8: Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations
Y3.Af8: African Development Foundation
Y3.C76/3: Consumer Product Safety Commission
Y3.Ex7/3: Export-Import Bank of the United States

Y4.Ag8/1: Agriculture Committee (House)
Y4.Ag8/3: Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee (Senate)
Y4.Ec7: Joint Economic Committee
Y4.Ed8/1: Education and Workforce Committee (House)
Y4.En2: Energy and Natural Resources Committee (Senate)

The second element of a SuDoc number represents the subdivision of the cabinet level department or independent agency.  This second element is made up of one to three digits, and is followed by a period:

A1. Agriculture Department, publications from the department as a whole
A13. Agriculture Department, Forest Service
C3. Commerce Department, Census Bureau
D201. Defense Department, Navy
SI8. Smithsonian Institution, National Gallery of Art

A SuDoc number's third element represents a specific series of documents published by an agency.  "Series" is rather loosely defined in some instances to be catch-all spots for "general publications" or "handbooks, manuals, guides."  This portion of the call number sits between the period after the department subdivision and a colon.  It may contain as many as four digits.  It's important to know that the period in the call number is just a place marker, it does not represent a decimal fraction.  The numbers in SuDoc number elements file as whole number integers, not as fractions.

Examples that may be used with any department or agency:
.1: Annual reports
.2: General publications
.5: Laws
.6: Regulations, rules, instructions

Some very large departments use one or more digits after the period to specify an additional level of the issuing agency's hierarchy of offices:

HE20.10#: President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports
HE20.30#: Indian Health Service
HE20.300#: National Institutes of Health
HE20.310#: National Cancer Institute

In addition to the general types of publications noted above, "series" in this part of a SuDoc number often equate to a specific bibliographic series of publications, or even a periodical title:

A1.47: Agricultural statistics
C13.22: Journal of Research of the NIST
D114.19: Army Historical Series
I19.16: Geological Survey Professional Papers
Y3.EL2/3:10 FEC Journal of Election Administration
Y4.Ec7:7 Economic Indicators

Note that, with the additional element in Y3. and Y4. SuDoc numbers, the element to specify a specific series falls to the right of the colon.

This much of a SuDoc number is called its "stem."  The final element of a SuDoc number (usually that which follows the colon) identifies a specific title or piece of a serial publication.  This part of the call number may have any one of a number of different styles.

:1997 the year for an annual publication
:6/8 volume / number sequence
:1997/10 a year / month sequence
:1234 a report number for publications issued in numerical order
:Et3 a cutter number drawn from a significant title word

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