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Administrative Law: Researching Federal Administrative Law

Federal Administrative Law Research Strategy

1. If needed, locate the statutory or constitutional provision creating the agency or granting the agency authority to act. Use an annotated statutory code to assist in determining whether the agency acted within the grant of power.

2. Locate the text of the relevant rule in the Code of Federal Regulations. Try to use an electronic source, such as Westlaw, Lexis, or e-CFR, which incorporate changes as they appear in the Federal Register. If you are researching in print, take the following steps:

  • Start with the CFR volume closest to the date you are interested in.
  • Update the CFR with List of Sections Affected (Note: CFR List of Sections Affected (LSA) is issued monthly. The LSA cites to Federal Register pages for final and proposed changes made since the last publication of the CFR.) 
  • Check the CFR Parts Affected to update to the day. (Note: CFR Parts Affected is found in the Federal Register.)

3. Check the Federal Register to find any proposed changes.

4. Locate agency and judicial decisions applying the rule in similar circumstances. You can find agency decisions on HeinOnline, Lexis Advance, LLMC, Westlaw, and agency websites.

Research Guides & Tutorials

If you are not familiar with the topic, you may find that a research guide or tutorial is a useful tool to assist you with your research. You should review the date the research guide was last updated. Using a research guide updated in the last year will help ensure you are relying on current information. However, if you are conducting historical research, an older guide may be helpful.

Some useful resources include:

1) Duke University Goodson Law Library: Federal Administrative Law Research Guide

2) Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.: A Research Guide to the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations 

3) Harvard Law School Library: Administrative Law Research

4) Georgetown Law Library Administrative Law Research Tutorial

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