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March 14, 2013

Finding Federal Statutes

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by Melissa

Legal research is a different type of beast. The skilled hunter of psychology data may need a guide when tracking down information for an APA Style reference to a federal statute. This blog post is your guide to tracking down the text of a federal statute and the statute’s name, title number, section number, and year. Happy hunting!

The sixth edition of the APA Publication Manual states that the United States Code is the official source for federal statutes. Where can I find a copy of it?
If you can’t get your hands on a printed copy of the United States Code, there’s an exact copy of the code on the Government Printing Office’s (GPO’s) website (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html).

According to the 19th edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation, the PDF version of the code on the GPO website can be cited as if it were the printed copy. However, for some information, it is helpful to consult a printed copy of the code.

Printed copies of the United States Code may be found in any law library. Some law schools and some state and local government offices have law libraries that are open to the public. Try an Internet search to find one near you.

You also may find a printed copy of the code in one of the Government Printing Office’s (GPO’s) federal depository libraries. Check the Federal Depository Library public page on the GPO website to find a federal depository library near you (http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp).

 

How do I find the official name of a statute?
The official name can be found in the text of the statute. Search the first few subsections of the statute to find the name. The words Short Title usually appear before the official name of the statute. Remember, not all statutes have names.

In the screenshot below, the name of the statute, National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, is under the heading Short Title, in section 4321.

NEP.code.page

 

If I know the name of a statute, but not the title or section numbers, how can I find them?
Use the Popular Name Tool on the U.S. House of Representatives website at http://uscode.house.gov/popularnames/popularnames.htm to find the title number, section numbers, and section in which the name of the statute can be found.

A search for the National Environmental Policy Act yields the following results:

NEP.popular.name.page
The results show that the statute can be found in Title 42 of the United States Code, beginning at section 4321; the short title (name) of the statute can be found in Title 42, section 4321 note. Confirm this information by consulting your copy of the United States Code.

 

How do I find the right year to use in the reference?
The edition year should come from, in order of preference, the spine of the volume of the United States Code that you are using, the year on the title page of the volume, or the latest copyright year.

 

List of Research Resources
Federal depository libraries: http://catalog.gpo.gov/fdlpdir/FDLPdir.jsp
PDF copy of the United States Code: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html
Popular Name Tool: http://uscode.house.gov/popularnames/popularnames.htm

 

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