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International Studies

This guide lists American University Library databases and print resources, and free Web sites that are of use to the study and research of International Studies.

Introduction

Formerly classified United States government documents provide a valuable insight into the discussion, motivation and formation of American domestic and international relations policies.  The American University Library owns two main databases devoted to declassified U.S. government documents:

They include documents from U.S. government offices and agencies, including:

  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
  • Defense Department
  • Justice Department
  • National Security Council
  • State Department
  • Commerce Department
  • White House

Materials available for review include:

  • Cabinet meeting minutes
  • CIA intelligence studies and reports
  • Correspondence
  • Diary entries
  • FBI surveillance and intelligence correspondence and memoranda 
  • Full texts of letters, instructions, and cables sent and received by U.S. diplomatic personnel
  • Joint Chiefs papers
  • National Security Council policy statements
  • Presidential conferences
  • State Department political analyses
  • Technical studies
  • Trade treaties, studies and analyses 
  • U.S. briefing materials for meetings with foreign heads of state and government officials
  • White House Confidential File materials

Searching Digital National Security Archive (Screen Capture)

The Digitial National Security Archive is produced by the National Security Archive which is based at George Washington University.  This database is composed of over 103,000 declassified documents that were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  These documents are grouped into a growing number of collections based on particular themes.  Each document is a scanned image of the original.  Unlike the Declassified Documents Reference System, the Digital National Security Archive deals almost exclusively with international events. 

Please note that the Digital National Security Archive is not the same as the National Security Archive website.  Their website only has a small number of documents available.

Let's search for documents pertaining to Al Qaeda

Searching Digital National Security Archive is similar to searching a journal database.  One can use the Quick Search.  For the Advanced Search features click on "Documents". 

One can search the whole database or individual collections of documents.

This search retrieved 242 documents

Because I do not know what type of documents I am looking for, just any documents pertaining to Al Qaeda, I would keep my search very simple and not use other limits, such as level of classification, type of documents, date, or add extra search words using the Boolean operator AND.

Each document displays the scanned image of the original document.

Please note that a document may be lightly or heavily redacted, that is, portions of the document may be removed or obscured.

One very nice feature of the Digital National Security Archive is that there is detail information about the collection so that researchers know what they are searching.  Just click on Collection Guide.

Searching Declassified Documents Reference System (Screen Capture)

The Declassified Documents Reference System (DDRS) has more than 116,000 declassified U.S. government documents dating from 1945 to 2006 as they are released from United States government agencies, the National Archives and Presidential Libraries.  Each document is a scanned image of the orginal. These documents cover both international and U.S. domestic events.

Searching DDRS is similar to searching a journal database.  The Advanced Search feature allows for more precise searching of the documents.

Let's search for documents regarding the Suez Crisis in 1956 and 1957. 

A search with just the word "suez" retrieved 731 documents.  To limit to more relevant documents, I would limit my search to the documents from 1956 to 1959.

Search tip: Because I do not know what type of documents I am looking for, just any documents pertaining to the Suez Crisis, I would keep my search very simple and not use other limits, such as type of documents, source institions or classification level.

This search retrieved 480 documents.  They are displayed with the most recent document at the top.  Each document displays the scanned image of the actual document.

Please note that a document may be lightly or heavily redacted, that is, portions of the document may be removed or obscured.