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Administrative Law: All steps on one page

Guide to researching regulations

Regulatory History -- All Steps on One Page

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1.  Find a regulation

A.  From the CFR

  • On the e-CFR, use keyword searches to identify a section relevant to your topic of interest.
  • In the print CFR, use the subject index in the last volume (very useful).
  • Once you have a section in the CFR located, you need to find where that regulation previously appeared as a final rule in the Federal Register.  You need a Federal Register citation.

    Look within the CFR's text for "source notes" for the rule.  A Federal Register citation will typically appear at the end of larger section, like a Part or a SubPart.  Occasionally it may appear after the individual provision.  Look for something like "77 FR 58945, Sept. 25, 2012".  This tells you the volume (77) and page number (598945) in the Federal Register where the final rule appeared before it was put into the CFR.

  • Look up the FR citation in the online Federal Register.

B.  From journal or news story

  • Search news for an articles that mentions a federal rule
  • News articles frequently talk about a "new federal rule", but they rarely mention the name of the rule.
  • Do a keyword search of the electronic Federal Register to find the rule the articles talks about.
    • limit by agency
    • limit to Rules (eliminate proposed rules or notices)
    • limit by date

2.  Examine the final rule.  Especially note:

  • Summary
  • Background (good for regulatory intent)
  • Summary of Comments received and how agency modified the rule based on the comment

See also How to Read a Federal Register Page.

3.  Find the proposed rule.

  • Citation should be mentioned in the final rule (usually in the Summary or the Background).  Look up the citation of the proposed rule in the electronic Federal Register by pasting the citation exactly as it appears.
  • Another way to find the proposed rule is to get the RIN from the final rule and search for it in the Unified Agenda.  This shows the history of the rule's appearance in the Federal Register.

4.  Sample comments from the proposed rule.

  • From, see the link to Comments in the right side bar.
  • Can also search for the RIN in
  • Things to notice:
    • Organizations involved (tells you who the stakeholders are)
    • Comments from individual citizens (gages public interest and impact)
    • Try searching within the comments for terms like "opposed" or "support" to help you find comments on both sides of the issue.

5.  Search for future things affecting the same issues as your regulation.

  • Rules that might change your regulation are those that affect the same CFR section as your rule.
  • Search for things published after your rule and that have the same CFR section as your rule.
  • In, go to Advanced Document Search.
    • Limit by publication date on or after your regulation
    • Limit by relevant events (rules, proposed rules, notices)
    • Limit by Affecting CFR Part
  • If you get too many potential documents, do additional limit by keywords to focus on specific issue covered by the rule.



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