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Introduction to Legal Research


Federal administrative law derives from the President, agencies of the Executive Branch, and independent regulatory agencies.  Agencies are given the authority to create administrative law through laws enacted by Congress.  

The law comes in the form of rules, regulations, procedures, orders, and decisions.  In creating these "laws," the agency acts as quasi-judicial, quasi-legislative entity. The administrative agencies act in a legislative-like capacity when promulgating rules and regulations.  The agencies act in a judicial-like capacity when conducting hearings and issuing rulings and decisions on particular matters.  

The process of administrative agency rule-making from the initial notice of agency interest to the promulgation of a final rule is documented in the Federal Register publication system.  The two main components of this system are the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations.  

Federal Regulatory Process

Regulatory Action

Related Publication
Administrative agencies propose and announce regulations to carry out legislative mandates Federal Register
Regulations are codified and incorporated into the existing body of regulations arranged by subject Code of Federal Regulations


Federal agencies, when issuing rules, have to follow the steps laid out in the Administrative Procedure Act of 1946. The Administrative Procedure Act was passed in order to ensure public participation in the rulemaking process, and also to ensure that agencies followed a consistent set of procedures for issuing rules. Proposed rules and final rules are initially published in the Federal Register; after the publication of the final rule, the rules that are currently in force are organized by subject and published annually in the Code of Federal Regulations.

Federal Register

The Federal Register (FR) is the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.  The FR is updated daily and is published Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.  

Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government.  It is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subjects to Federal regulation. Each title is divided into chapters, which usually bear the name of the issuing agency.  Each chapter is further subdivided into parts that cover specific regulatory areas.  

Each volume of the CFR is updated once each calendar year and is issued on a quarterly basis.

Title Date of Update
1-16 January 1st
17-27 April 1st
28-41 July 1st
42-50 October 1st

Due to the update schedule of the CFR, the List of Sections Affected (LSA) provides a cumulative list of CFR sections that have been changed at any time since each CFR title was last updated.  The LSA provide researchers with the applicable FR citation to a rule or regulation that has not be updated yet in the CFR.  The full code is available in the link below.


How to Read a Citation

Here are the citation elements for 16 C.F.R. § 444.1. 

16 C.F.R. § 444.1
Title Number Source/Code of Federal Regulations Section Number

To locate this regulation, one would go to the most current CFR, look for Title 16, and then locate section 444.1 in that title.  One would also look up this citation in the List of Sections Affected to make sure there have not been any changes to the regulation since it was printed in the CFR.  

Here are the citation elements for Importation of Fruits and Vegetables, 60 Fed. Reg. 50,379 (Sept. 29, 1995) (to be codified at 7 C.F.R. pt. 300)

Importation of Fruits and Vegetables 60 Fed. Reg. 50,379 Sept. 29, 1995 to be codified at 7 C.F.R. pt. 300
Name of Regulation or Rule Volume Source/Federal Register Page of Federal Register Date of publication Future location in CFR

To locate this regulation, one would go to Volume 60 of the Federal Register, page 50,379.  One may also locate the Federal Register issued on Sept. 29, 1995 to locate the regulation as well.

Locating the FR

Locating the CFR

Locating the LSA

Additional Guides

Here are some research guides created by other law schools that might be helpful in explaining how to conduct administrative law research.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the State of Georgia, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Georgia State University College of Law and the authors of the works contained on this website do not assume or accept any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currentness, or comprehensiveness of the content on this website. The content on this website does not in any manner constitute the issuance of legal advice or counsel. The information on this website is intended to provide resources that may aid the research of the topics presented, and are in no way a comprehensive list of sources one should consult on the topics presented. Please note that case law, statutory law, and administrative law may be modified and/or overturned. Additionally, because the laws vary between jurisdictions, the laws referred to herein may or may not be applicable to the law within the reader’s jurisdiction.