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Researching Federal Regulations

This guide is designed to acquaint the user with federal case law, statutes, regulations, and legislative histories, how to locate those sources, and how to navigate them.


Legislatures delegate the power to promulgate regulations, sometimes referred to as rules, to administrative agencies. Typically, the delegation of the power to make rules or regulations about a particular subject occurs when there is a high degree of complexity or a need for expert or specialized knowledge. When properly promulgated by an agency within the agency's authority and according to the appropriate procedure, regulations have the force and effect of law and are therefore an important part of legal research. This guide discusses finding regulations in both the Code of Federal Regulations and Federal Register.

Publication of Regulations

Regulations are published both chronologically in the Federal Register and topically in the Code of Federal Regulations. Regulations are first published as a proposed rule. A thirty-day comment period on the proposed regulation follows. At the conclusion of the comment period the regulation may be revised and re-issued for additional comment of issued in its final state. Proposed, temporary, and final regulations all appear for the first time in the Federal Register. Final regulations are ultimately codified in the Code of Federal Regulation, also commonly referred to as the C.F.R. The C.F.R. is revised annually in quarterly installments.

Titles 1-16-January 1

Titles 17-27-April 1

Titles 28-41- July 1

Titles 42-50-October 1

Locating Federal Regulations

There are two ways to locate regulations:

With a citation, go directly to either the C.F.R. or the Federal Register.

-A typical citation to the Federal Register. 21 Fed. Reg. 15698 (2003)

-A typical citation tot he C.F.R.: 26 C.F.R. & 13.1 (2003).

In the absence of a citation,

-The United States Code Service is an annotated statutory code that contains cross-references to the C.F.R. and the Federal Register, journal articles and cases may likewise provide a direct reference to a regulation.

-Both the Federal Register and the C.F.R. contain general indexes.

-GPO Access has both the Federal Register and C.F.R. available on line for full text searching

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