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Federal Rules and Regulations: Introduction

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Bill Draper

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Introduction to this Guide

This research guide describes the structure and use of federal administrative law primary sources that you should know about when you engage in administrative law research. Although the structure of state administrative law and sources is similar, this guide does not cover state or international administrative law.

Introduction to Federal Rules and Regulations

Congress delegates to federal departments and agencies the power to issue rules and regulations which implement statutes and have the full force and effect of law. While statutes are usually broad in scope, rules and regulations are the detailed "nuts and bolts" that put a statute's intent into practice.

As required by the Federal Register Act of 1935 and its amendments, new rules must first appear in the daily Federal Register (FR), and all "in force" rules must appear annually in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

The Federal Register contains proposed and final rules issued on a given day, as well as public notices, presidential documents, and notices of Sunshine Act meetings.

The CFR contains only final rules in force, regardless of when they were originally issued, and is arranged by subject into 50 broad, numbered titles. The exception to this codified arrangement is Title 3 of the CFR, which contains presidential orders and proclamations arranged chronologically rather than by subject.

Both publications, the FR and the CFR, are copiously cross-referenced to each other, so that it is easy to trace the history of a rule from its proposal through its latest change. The CFR is generally preferred for its index, "in force" status, and subject arrangement. However, because the paper CFR is revised only once a year (to add new rules and delete rescissions), it must always be updated by examining recent issues of the Federal Register.  Electronic versions vary; some may not need to be updated.

For further assistance with regulatory research, stop by the Reference Desk in the Library's Gateway.

Publication of Federal Regulations

How to Find Federal Regulations

How to Update Regulations

Pending Rules

Introductory Materials

Here are some basic texts that cover federal rules and regulations.