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Ready, Set, Research! Materials for Writing Your Research Paper

Legislative and Regulatory History

For Pennsylvania legislative history, see Temple Law Library's Pennsylvania Legal Research library guide and Drexel Law Library's Pennsylvania Legislative History research guide.

Federal Legislative History - for bills that have become law

  1. Locate the public law number.

    - The federal code lists, at the end of each code section, the numbers of the public laws that created and amended that section.

    - If you only know the act’s name, use Lexis's Table of Acts by Popular Name (Temple Law access) or the Legal Information Institute's Table of Popular Names (open access) to find the Public Law number and statute number.

    - If you want to look at the history of multiple bills on a particular topic, Congress.gov’s advanced search has searching by policy area or legislative subject term and permits you to customize which Congressional terms you want to search.

  2. Locate a compiled legislative history.

    - ProQuest Legislative Insight (Temple University access)
    Legislative Insight allows you to search by public law number, statutes at large number, or act number.  You also can do a guided search for more advanced searching.  Legislative Insight compiles bill actions, Congressional records and reports, and committee materials.

    - HeinOnline U.S. Federal Legislative History (Temple Law access)
    You can search this Hein database by public law number or popular name.  Hein provides some documents that are not in ProQuest.

    - Westlaw U.S. GAO Federal Legislative Histories (Temple Law access)
    The United States Government Accountability Office has compiled legislative histories for most public laws enacted between 1921 and 1995.  The histories can be searched by public law number, popular name, statutes at large number, or bill number.

    - Westlaw Legislative History – United States Code (Temple Law access)
    This Westlaw resource has acts passed from 1948 going forward.  It also has all Congressional committee reports from 1990 forward (including reports for bills that never were enacted).

    - Arnold & Porter Legislative Histories (Temple Law access)
    Westlaw provides access to Arnold & Porter’s legislative histories of a few dozen well-known acts, including Sarbanes-Oxley and the Patriot Act.

Federal Legislative History - for bills that have not yet become law

  1. Find the act or bill on Congress.gov.

    Congress.gov allows you to follow a bill’s status as well as get information on enacted bills.  The site has numerous search options, including searching by keyword or bill number.  The Advanced Search allows you to search by policy area or one of the assigned legislative subject terms, as well as by keyword, Congress(es), status, and sponsors.  Information provided includes text, sponsor(s), status, and amendments.  To learn about its many features, Congress.gov provides a tutorial on how to use the site..

  2. Check for additional resources with insights into the bill:

    a. Cheetah's Federal Developments Knowledge Center (Temple Law access; some features available only on Temple Law Library computers) estimates a bill’s chance of becoming law using a various metrics, including an analysis of the text, sponsorship, and history of the same or similar bills.

b. Run a news search (in Lexis news or your preferred news database) for the bill’s common name. 

c. The bill’s sponsor or sponsors may have statements or other materials on their websites.

Regulations

  1. Go to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) to browse or search for regulation(s) of interest.  The regulations cite to pertinent Federal Register pages.

  2. Go to the Federal Register to retrieve the original pdf of the pertinent pages – and take a look back to the beginning of the section to check for context.

  3. Regulatory Insight (Temple University access) has the regulation's text, Federal Register pages for each regulation, and public comments.  Searching can be clunky; searching by the CFR number often is the fastest way to find the correct entry.