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February 21, 2013

Writing References for Federal Statutes

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by Melissa

It’s 2 a.m. You are hunched over a laptop computer, and you have 20 ounces of hastily drunk coffee sloshing around in your stomach, or maybe you have a sheaf of heavily edited, stained papers spread across half your desk, while you gnaw on half an inch of wood or whatever it is that lead pencils are made of these days. Is this stressful scenario what your process for creating challenging references looks like?

Researching and writing may be stressful, but with the right resources, creating references can be relatively easy. Relax, put down the oversized coffee cup (or chewed up pencil), and take a look at this simple template for creating APA Style references for federal statutes:

Name of the Statute, Title number Source § Section number(s) (Year).

 

Parts of the Reference
There are just five pieces of information that you need when creating an APA Style reference for a basic federal statute: the name of the statute, the title number, the name of the source in which you found the statute, the section number(s) of the statute, and the year of the source in which you found the statute.

This blog post defines each of these elements and shows you how to put them together to create a reference and an in-text citation. A subsequent blog post will provide more information on how to find this information in official and authoritative sources.

 

1. Name of the Statute. If a statute has a common name, this is the first element of the APA Style reference. The name of the statute is followed by a comma. If a statute doesn’t have a name, omit this element, and start with the title number.

Note that the terms statute and act refer to the same thing; you will see them used interchangeably if you regularly work with legal materials.

The name of one statute is the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.

 

2. Title Number. The title number is the second element that appears in APA Style references for a named statute. If a statute does not have a name, the title number is the first element. Note that in the Publication Manual, the title number is referred to as the volume number.

 Title numbers identify the subject matter group to which a statute belongs. For instance, in the collection of statutes known as the United States Code, education statutes are grouped in Title 20, public health and welfare statutes are grouped in Title 42, and labor statutes

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 is in Title 29 of the United States 
Code.

 

3. Source. The official source for federal statutes is the United States Code. In the reference, use an abbreviated version of this title: U.S.C.

Although statutes can be found in other places, use the official code unless it is not available (e.g., a recently passed statute usually cannot be found in the United States Code; therefore, it would be appropriate to cite another source).

 

4. Section number(s). A statute is usually divided into several numbered sections and subsections. In a reference for a statute, a section symbol (§) should be listed before the section number. If your reference includes more than one section, provide the first and last section numbers, preceded by a double section symbol (§§), and separate

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 runs from section 2601 to 
section 2654, formatted as §§ 2601–2654.

 

5. Year. Finish the reference with the edition year of the United States Code (not the year that the statute was enacted). Set the year in parentheses, and end the reference with a period.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 can be found in the last 
printing of the full United States Code, which has an edition year of 2006.

 

Reference Example
A reference list entry for a federal statute looks like this:

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601–2654 (2006).

 

In-Text Citation Example
The in-text citation format for a federal statute is similar to that for other APA Style references. Cite the name of the statute and the year:

Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (2006)
(Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 2006)

 

Bluebook
If your work includes statutes that differ from the basic format shown above, requiring you to go beyond the scope of Appendix 7.1, be sure to consult The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation.

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