Research Guides

Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World

Sources for Federal Statutory Research

Print Sources

There are three published versions of the federal code, each organized by the same scheme of 50 numbered titles, each corresponding to a particular topic, e.g., Title 26 is the Internal Revenue Code. Each version is searchable by a subject index or a table of "Popular Names." The annotated versions also provide an index in each title.

  • United States Code (U.S.C.) - published by the government; unannotated
  • United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) - published by West - annotated; includes the federal constitution and procedural rules
  • United States Code Service (U.S.C.S.) - published by Lexis - annotated; includes the federal constitution and procedural rules

Which version to choose?

Usually the "real-life" researcher will not have access to more than one version of the U.S. Code. Employers will generally own one of the annotated versions. Law school libraries may have all three. For currency and access to annotations, U.S.C.S. or U.S.C.A. are the best choices; however, according to the Bluebook it is necessary to consult U.S.C. to obtain citation information. Since each annotated version may contain references to sources which do not appear in the other, the student researcher may wish to consult both if available.

Electronic Sources

Lexis and Westlaw:

  • Lexis provides access to U.S.C.S. (Source Directory: Federal Legal - U.S. - United States Code Service);
  • Westlaw provides access to U.S.C.A. (USCA database).

Internet:

A number of Web sites contain all or parts of the United States Code (unannotated). Use caution as to their currency and look for the site's instructions on finding current updates. Some reliable sources of the U.S.C. are:

For in-depth information on federal statutory research, consult the TMLL Guide to Legal Research, "Federal Codes" and "Using Federal Annotated Codes."


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