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United Nations: Locating Documents

Quickly Retrieve Documents with

If you know a document's symbol, usually the fastest way to retrieve it is to add the document symbol after

For example, to retrieve E/C.12/GMB/1, type in

This strategy will not work for all documents and, in many cases, you may not have a specific document symbol in mind. In those cases, you'll need to use one of the search engines for UN documents.

Search Engines for UN Documents Online and In Print

Over the years, the UN has developed a wide variety of tools for searching its documents. Each database has overlapping but slightly different content and search features. If you don't find what you're looking for in one database, try another.

The following three database are the best starting points for searching UN documents:

Additionally, two other databases may be useful depending on your specific needs:

Tips for Using UN Search Engines

Not all databases will allow you to search the full text of all documents. UNBISnet only searches metadata about the documents, such as title, author, and subject, not the full text of the documents. In ODS and the UN Digital Library, documents from 1993 and after were created on computers and are full text searchable. However, documents from before 1993 were scanned from print and are difficult or impossible to search in full text. Many scanned documents are simply unsearchable images. For other scanned documents, the UN has used optical character recognition (OCR) programs to convert the scanned image into text, but these programs frequently make errors that prevent finding them through a full text search. For example:

T/63 discusses the population of UN trustees and notes "In Naura, the same term would include: (a) indigenous inhabitants, (b) Europeans, (c) Chinese." The OCR renders this quote as "In u, th d includ : ( ) indig nou inhab1tants, (b) , (c) Chin so." A full text search for the terms Naura, indigenous, European, or Chinese would not retrieve this document. 

If you know that you would like to find documents before 1993, your best bet is to search using terms that would appear in the metadata, such as title, author, and subject, and then to skim the text yourself to identify the relevant documents.

Most databases allow both natural language and Boolean searching. 

Boolean searches use special characters to tell the database precisely how to search. ODS and the Digital Library allow you to use AND and OR; quotations marks to retrieve "exact phrases"; and * to retrieve variations on a word. For example, if you wanted to retrieve documents discussing the various ethnic groups in the Pacific Islands, you might search:

(Naura OR "Papua New Guinea" OR Samoa OR Fiji) AND (India* OR indigenous OR EuropeOR Chin*)

The Digital Library also allows the use of the word SENTENCE to retrieve only those documents that include words within the same sentence. For example, if the search above was retrieving many discussions of the countries of Indian and China, rather than of Indian and Chinese residents of the Pacific Islands, you might instead search:

(Naura OR "Papua New Guinea" OR Samoa OR Fiji SENTENCE (India* OR indigenous OR Europe* OR Chin*

Locating UN Documents in Print

For most recent documents, the search engines above will allow you to find the documents online. However, many documents are still only available in print. 

To obtain copies of print documents, first search for the title of the document in the Loyola Law School library catalog to see if the library owns a copy of the document:

The Loyola Law School library has only a small collection of UN materials but many libraries are UN depository libraries. This means that the UN provides the library with a large collection of free UN materials, so long as the library provides those materials for free to the general public.

The UN provides a complete list of depository libraries so that you can locate a depository near you:

If you don't want to visit another library in person, don't worry! The Loyola Law library can ask to borrow the materials from another library through interlibrary loan. Short documents will be scanned and emailed to you. Longer documents will be mailed to the Loyola Law library, where we will email you to let you know that the document is available for pick-up at the front desk. 

To place an interlibrary loan request, use the following form:

Other Websites for UN Documents