Statutes Research Guide

This research guide introduces basic concepts of statutory research, and provides introductory information on how to locate the statutes of U.S. federal and state jurisdictions.


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Legislative History Research Tutorial

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A statute is a written law enacted by a legislature. The statutes you will deal with most frequently in United States law are federal and state statutes. There are also local (i.e., city or county) statutes, usually called ordinances.

When a bill is passed by the legislature, a statute is issued in a form called a slip law. The slip laws of a session of the legislature are collected in a chronological publication known as session laws. Finally, the laws are arranged by subject in a code. Codes are kept up-to-date in print by pocket parts and supplements. The U.S. Code and many state codes are updated within 48 hours online. There are both federal and state versions of slip laws, session laws, and codes, though they may go by different names in different jurisdictions.

If you have a citation to a statute, you can use the citation information to quickly locate it in print or electronically. If you don't have a citation, however, you may be able to find a statute by its title (e.g., "Affordable Care Act") by using a popular name table for your jurisdiction. Otherwise, you can use the subject index to the jurisdiction's code; if you're using a print code, the index is nearly always found in the last volume(s). Lexis and Westlaw may even provide electronic versions of a popular name table or index for your jurisdiction. It is also possible to search (e.g., terms and connectors searching) the full text of federal or state statutes online using Lexis or Westlaw. See our Terms and Connectors (Boolean) Searching Tutorial for more information.

Our Statutory Research Tutorial has additional information about federal and state statutes.

Statutory Research Tutorial

Includes videos covering topics "What are Statutes and Where to Find Them," "Anatomy of a Code," "Finding Statutes Online," "Finding Statutes Using Print," and "Updating and Currency."

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Update History

Updated 08/20 (CMC)
Updated 11/22 (MK)
Links 07/2023 (VL)