Research Guides

TMLL Research Guide - Chapter 10


Administrative rules and regulations, both federal and state, carry the force of law.  They are promulgated under authority granted by statute to expand upon the general outline provided by the statute and to prescribe or prohibit activities in areas statutes do not reach.  The federal compilation of administrative regulations currently in force is the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).  The chronological compilation of new and amended regulations, both proposed and final, is the Federal Register (F.R.). Both the official C.F.R. and the Federal Register are available in PDF format online via FDsys, as well as in print on the third floor of the law library.

The official C.F.R. is published in multiple volumes that are re-issued annually. It is organized into titles that roughly correspond to the titles used to organize the United States Code.  For example, Title 26 of the U.S.C. is the Internal Revenue Code, while Title 26 of C.F.R. contains Internal Revenue Service regulations.  However, the correlation is not so precise for all titles.  For example, Title 17 of the U.S.C. contains copyright statutes, while Title 17 of the C.F.R. contains securities regulations.  The annual updating of the C.F.R. is done sequentially, with a portion of the entire set updated each quarter.  The annual update cycle is as follows: titles 1-16 are revised as of January 1; titles 17-27 are revised as of April 1; titles 28-41 are revised as of July 1; and titles 42-50 are revised as of October 1. Check the front of each volume to determine when it was last updated.

The Federal Register is published every Monday through Friday except on federal holidays.  It contains, among other items, the text of new and amended regulations, as well as proposed new regulations and amendments, and notices of repealed regulations.

Locating federal regulations by topic

  • Use the official subject index published in the last volume of the C.F.R., or the unofficial subject index published as part of the United States Code Service.
  • If you know the citation to the enabling or other relevant statute, you may be able to locate a cross-reference to the pertinent regulations.  Currently the United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) contains more cross-references to the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) than United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.).  Look up the federal statute and scan the accompanying annotations.  Often a C.F.R. reference will appear after the statutory language and before the case annotations begin.
  • Even though the Code annotations may include a reference(s) to C.F.R., it may not be precisely on point. It may direct you to a general title and "part" - or subdivision - of C.F.R. without giving you a subject description or subsection.  Another way to find the C.F.R. section you want is to locate the most current "C.F.R. Index and Finding Aids" volume, either the official version published as part of the C.F.R. or the version that is part of U.S.C.S.  This volume can be used in two ways:
    1. Look for the pertinent regulation through a keyword search in the subject matter    index
    2. Use “Table I - Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules” that provides cross-references from the U.S. Code sections to their corresponding C.F.R. sections.

Updating regulations

  • Because agency regulations are newly promulgated, or revised or repealed, on a constant basis, the paper C.F.R. volumes that are issued yearly are out of date literally by the time they reach the library shelves.  Therefore it is necessary to determine whether a particular regulation has been affected by recent agency action.  The C.F.R. is updated by the Federal Register.  There is an updating tool called the List of C.F.R. Sections Affected (LSA) that enables you to track developments affecting a regulation through the Federal Register. The Library no longer subscribes to the LSA in print, but it is available online from GPO (

To update a C.F.R. section:

  1. Note the date your C.F.R. volume's coverage stops by looking at the title page of the volume.
  2. Collect the LSA pamphlet(s) necessary to update the C.F.R. section you located.
  3. Look up the regulation. There are two separate listings under each title: one for final rules and one for proposed rules. You should check them both.

If your section is not listed, there have been no changes during the period covered.  If your section is listed, you will see a one or two word explanation of the change and a page number (which refers to a page in the Federal Register).

  1. Record the page cites given for your regulation, if any.  Bold numbers in the LSA refer to the previous year.
  2. Check the Table of Federal Register Issue Pages and Dates in the back of the LSA issue to determine the date of the Federal Register in which the citation you found appears.
  3. Find this page in the Federal Register and read it.

Note the date the most recent LSA pamphlet's coverage stops.  There will always be a gap between that date and the day you are conducting your research.  To fill the gap, you need to find:

  1. the last issue of the Federal Register for each complete month not covered by the LSA pamphlet and,
  2. the most recent issue of the Federal Register for the current month.  There is a "C.F.R. Parts Affected" table in the back of each issue, as well as a table of Federal Register pages and dates.  Use the table to determine whether there have been any recent changes affecting your regulation.

NOTE: We recommend that you use e-CFR and the FDsys website, described below, or Bloomberg Law, Lexis, or Westlaw for updating.

Checking for cases interpreting or affecting the validity of your regulations

Courts have a complex role in implementing and interpreting agency regulations.  To determine whether judicial opinions have had an impact on the validity of a regulation, you should check a federal regulation on Shepard’s (Lexis) or KeyCite (Westlaw).  Coverage differences between the two systems can result in quite distinct results, so this is an area where checking a citation in both systems is usually worth the slightly extra effort.

Researching in electronic formats: Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw

Bloomberg Law, Lexis and Westlaw provide the current full text of C.F.R. and the Federal Register.  Both systems also contain superseded versions of C.F.R. back to the early 1980s in separate databases/sources.  Federal Register coverage goes back to 1980 on Lexis and to its first publication in 1936 on Westlaw.  On both systems, an alternative to searching the full text of C.F.R. and/or F.R. is to search the versions available in the specialized "area of practice" sources/databases.  These contain only the titles pertinent to a particular area of law.  As always with the specialty databases/sources, some caution must be used in deciding to search only in limited titles in order to avoid missing relevant material.

Locating federal regulations by topic

To search for a C.F.R. section online by subject, you can use either terms and connectors or plain language searching, using descriptive terms.  Another approach, if you know the citation to the enabling statute, is to use the U.S. Code citation in a field/segment search as follows:

WestlawNext: cr(20 /5 4011) - searches the credit field authority(20 /5 4011) - searches the authority segment

The above examples will search your terms in only the portion of the document that contains the reference to the statute under which your regulation was promulgated.  You can combine search terms with the field segment search if desired, using terms and connectors.

Updating regulations

The online versions of C.F.R. are much more current than the print version, making updating an easier task.  Each C.F.R. section online on either Lexis or Westlaw contains a line, near the heading, indicating the last issue of the Federal Register through which the section is updated. (Note: this does not mean that material affecting the section was published on that date in the Federal Register - merely that that is the last date through which the database has been updated.) The date of most recent update varies; it may be from a week or so to nearly a month prior to the date you are researching.

Checking for cases interpreting or affecting the validity of your regulations

C.F.R. sections can be Shepardized on Lexis or KeyCited on Westlaw.  Another alternative is to construct a terms and connectors search that uses the regulation cite as a search term.

Internet sources

The Government Publishing Office site FDsys also provides search and updating capability for the C.F.R. and the Federal Register.

FDsys permits searching for regulations by citation or subject and includes the parallel authorities table in which cross references from U.S.C. citations to accompanying regulations in the C.F.R. may be found.

This web site has proven to be reliable and current, and is useful for updating regulations without incurring the costs associated with Lexis and Westlaw.  To update a C.F.R. citation, Select the applicable List of C.F.R. Sections Affected from FDsys.  The List of C.F.R. Sections Affected (LSA) is the tool researchers use to make sure they have the most recent changes to regulations and to find out whether there are any proposed amendments pending.

  • Use Last Month’s List of C.F.R. Parts Affected to determine whether there were any changes to your regulation between the publication of the annual volume containing the regulation and the end of the previous month.
  • Use Current List of C.F.R. Parts Affected in the most recent issue of the Federal Register to determine whether there have been any changes to the regulation within the past month.  This component should be current to the previous business day.

FDsys also offers access to the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR), a much more current electronic version of the C.F.R. available at

Although it is not an official edition of the C.F.R., it is an editorial compilation of C.F.R. material and Federal Register amendments, so many researchers use the e-CFR as an updating tool; the current update status is printed at the top of e-CFR pages.

Using this version makes it unnecessary to use the LSA to update regulations.  However, Boolean searching is not yet possible in this version – you must browse by C.F.R. title and part.

Agency web sites may include statutes and regulations relating to the activities of the agency.  Advantages of using an agency web site include the fact that they are free of charge and one need not know the precise citation to statutes and regulations in order to locate them.  Be aware, however, that some such sites do not provide sufficient information as to the source or currency of the information provided.

Tracking proposed new and amended federal regulations

Rulemaking activities of federal agencies can be followed in a number of ways. If you are tracking a particular area of law or a particular regulation, you can look at current issues of the Federal Register, or sign up for the table of contents to be e-mailed daily.

The site (!home) provides access to proposed federal regulations that are open for public comment as well as those for which the comment period has ended. The site also includes federal agency notices published in the Federal Register, and additional supporting materials, comments, and federal agency guidance and adjudications. It is also the portal for submission of public comments on proposed regulations.

Federal agencies are required to publish their planned rulemaking or deregulatory activities in the Unified Agenda, which is published twice a year.

The FdSys site, in addition to providing full text of C.F.R. and the Federal Register, provides links to and the Unified Agenda.

Finally, in addition to individual agency websites, other sites that provide information about proposed regulations are and (which provides information about the status of agency documents undergoing mandated executive branch review by the OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.)

Historical versions of C.F.R. and Federal Register

When the need arises to review how a federal regulation appeared at an earlier point in time, historical versions of C.F.R. can be consulted. Westlaw and Lexis provide some historical versions of C.F.R.  Hein Online provides historical coverage of C.F.R. extending back to the first published version in 1938.

To trace back the evolution of a C.F.R. section, you can use these historical versions, or review the “Administrative History” that usually appears at the end of a section, similar to the parenthetical information following a statutory code section. (The location of this information varies depending on which source you are using.) This administrative history will provide references to the Federal Register publications of the original or amended versions of the C.F.R. section. Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, and FdSys provide some historical coverage of the Federal Register. Hein Online provides the Federal Register back to its initial publication in 1936.

Federal agency opinions, rulings, etc.

Federal agency Web sites can be good sources of agency adjudications, interpretations, and other documents. Many are reasonably up to date. A list of federal administrative agencies whose decisions are freely available on the Web can be found at

Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw provide federal administrative agency decisions, rulings, and other documents, which are accessible via the federal listings or the topical listings. Make sure to consult the resource “scope notes” for coverage (types of documents and dates) and search tips. Topical databases such as Intelliconnect and print looseleaf services can also be a valuable source of agency decisions and other documents.  Hein Online includes a U.S. Federal Agency Documents, Decisions, and Appeals Library that contains full runs of some agency decisions.

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