UPDATE: Researching the United Nations: Finding the Organization's Internal Resource Trails

By Linda Tashbook

Linda Tashbook is the Foreign International Comparative Law Librarian at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law's Barco Law Library, a Fulbright Senior Specialist, and an attorney in private practice. Prior to becoming the foreign and international librarian, she was the Barco Law Library's Electronic Services Librarian. Her book, Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law (Oxford, 2019) won the 2020 Publication Award from the Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section of the American Association of Law Libraries and the 2019 Reynolds and Flores Publication Award. Her Juris Doctor and Master of Library Science degrees are from the University of Pittsburgh. Her Bachelor of Science degree is from Texas Woman's University.

Published November/December 2022

(Previously updated in December 2006, June 2009, May/June 2011, October 2012, June/July 2013, and November/December 2016)

See the Archive Version!

1. Introduction

The United Nations is such a massive organization that its wide array of processes and products require enough reference sources to warrant a map and compass for navigation. As a map, here are suggested search techniques for several standard types of queries and, as a compass, here are the U.N.'s many diverse search tools organized into resource types.

2. Standard Queries

3. Types of Research Tools

For more information about the search tools and primary sources that are published by the U.N., use research guides by non-U.N. entities

3.1. Persons Involved with the U.N.

3.2. Issues that the U.N. Works On

3.3. Works of a Particular U.N. Entity

4. Handbooks, Toolkits, and Other Instructional Sources from U.N. Entities

Public Administration Network – Handbooks and Manuals for capacity development

5. Researching Treaties Deposited with the U.N.

6. Glossaries for U.N. Functions

7. Finding Official Operating Documents of U.N. Entities

8. Topical Research Guides & Resource Collections

This list is only intended to contain true finding aides that point to assorted information sources in a subject area. The Dag Hammarskjold Library has a comprehensive list of UN entity research and reference materials. An alternative way to find subject-based resources is to click on the 'Publications' link on the home page of any U.N. body or organization.

General Matters:





Safety and Security


9. Guides to U.N. Research from Non-U.N. Entities

This list has a small sample of the many UN research guides online:

10. U.N. Entities’ Compilations of National Laws

11. Databases from Throughout the U.N. System

11.1. Case Databases

12. Directories of U.N. Staff and Components

These directories primarily list national representatives who participate in the named entities. Where possible, staff directories are also linked. Generic "contact us" links are purposely omitted because those are not informational in themselves, and they can already be efficiently located. 

UN Libraries: