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Congressional Help: Hearings


Please note: the content viewed in ProQuest® Congressional varies according to the subscriptions/purchases of individual institutions.

Content Type/Document Types

From the Advanced Search form, a search with the Content Type Hearings selected will return the following Document Types (from a view of Results Filters):


  • Hearings Published
  • Hearings Unpublished
  • Hearings Pre-Published
  • Hearing Transcripts*

*Note, Hearings Transcripts will only show up as a Document Type if you are searching Anywhere Including Full Text.  They are not included in searches from Basic Search or Search by Number.

About Hearings  

A hearing is an official proceeding of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law.  In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about topics of current interest.

ProQuest Congressional search results will reveal (via the filters on the left side of search results) four types of hearing records - Pre-published, Published, and Unpublished, and Hearing Transcripts.


Tip: Users searching for testimony should concentrate primarily on hearings, although testimony transcripts, excerpts, and written statements are occasionally included within other publication types.


Collections that include Hearings  

ProQuest produces several collections that contain hearing content covered on this page.

  • Digital Complete Prospective includes Hearings, as well as other content types.
  • Congressional Basic contains abstracts and indexing for all published hearings held from 1970 forward. Congressional Basic also includes Prepublished records for hearings that have been held, but have not yet been published.
  • Congressional Hearings Digital Collection contains abstract, indexing, and full text (in PDFs) of hearings.
  • Unpublished Hearings Digital Collection contains abstract, indexing, and full text (in PDFs) of unpublished hearings.

Published Hearings  

Published hearings are the official record of committee hearings proceedings. Hearings, which are usually open to the public, are held to enable committees to gather opinions and information to help Members make decisions regarding proposed legislation or to help them fulfill their oversight and investigation responsibilities.

Official hearings publications, which are printed by the Government Publishing Office include:

  • Written and oral statements of witnesses
  • Transcripts of the verbal question-and-answer session between the committee and witnesses
  • Reports, exhibits, and other materials submitted for the record by witnesses
  • Correspondence and other materials submitted by interested parties

Testimony is usually arranged within the publication in the chronological order in which the witnesses appeared. Witnesses' written statements are sometimes located throughout the hearing following the spoken testimony transcript, and are sometimes located within the supplementary material at the end of the volume.

In 1983 (98th Congress) the Senate adopted a numbering system for hearings that is still used today, but the House does not have a numbering system for hearings. Transcripts of hearings are occasionally issued as or included in House or Senate reports or documents, in which case they are numbered as a report or a document.

Most hearings are published from six months to a year after the hearing is held, but some hearings are published following a gap of two or more years, and some are never published. The timing of the publication, as well as the decision on whether or not to publish, depends solely on the individual committees. See information about Unpublished Hearings, below.

ProQuest Congressional also makes available indexing for hearings through the optional historical indexes module and Congressional Basic, and the full text is available through the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection.

Hearings Pre-published  

Pre-Published Hearings

From 2005-forward, The ProQuest Congressional Basic subscription contains pre-published results records (metadata records) for all hearings, based on information available in the daily Congressional Record. These records become available a day or two after a hearing is held; records can be searched by keyword, bill number, broad subject terms, and the names of witnesses and witness affiliations cited in the Congressional Record.

Available transcripts and submitted statements associated with the hearing can be found by clicking the Retrieve selected transcripts link in the record. If no results are returned by clicking the link, this means that no full text content is available for that particular hearing.

If the hearing is published:  Once the official hearing is published by the Government Publishing Office, the temporary results records are replaced with permanent results records containing abstracts, full indexing, and full bibliographic information associated with the published hearing.

If a hearing is not published, the temporary results record will remain in the system, so the user will know that a hearing was held but was never published.   When the unpublished hearing is released, it will be fully indexed and a permanent results record will be created that will replace the temporary results record and become accessible to users who subscribe to the optional historical indexes module or to the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection.

Hearings Transcripts  

Transcripts of Hearings

The ProQuest Congressional Basic subscription also includes selected transcripts and witnesses' written statements for many hearings, with coverage beginning in 1988. This material becomes available a day or two after the hearing is held.

To access this material directly, the user should use the Advanced Search form and search in the field Anywhere. (Note: the transcripts are not directly searchable using the Basic Search form however transcripts from 2005-forward, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the link in the corresponding PrePublished Hearing record).

Unpublished Hearings  

Not all congressional hearings are published. Each committee makes its own decision regarding which hearings are to be published. A committee may decide not to publish a hearing because it contains classified or sensitive information, or because it pertains to private or other legislation deemed to be not of great interest to the public at large, or simply because committee budget or workload considerations preclude the publication. The committee does not have to justify its decision not to publish.

The transcripts of unpublished hearings are transferred to the National Archives. Senate hearings generally remain closed for 20 years, and House hearings remain closed for 30 years. Hearings that contain classified or sensitive material generally remain closed for 50 years.

When they are released, unpublished hearings are not normally published by the committees, although in unusual circumstances they may be. For example, the transcripts of the Senate Government Operations Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations 1953 hearings to investigate alleged espionage and subversive activities were published as a Government Operations Committee print in 2003.

Content for the ProQuest House and Senate Unpublished Hearings collections includes all content that is included in the folder held at the National Archives that has been cleared by Archives staff as ready for release. Content may include:  transcripts of hearings, committee meetings, or bill text.