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Legal Research & Law

Research guide designed to help those researching the law or legal topics.

Find United States Law

Finding Laws in Libraries

At the end of each session of Congress, public laws are published in annual volumes called the United States Statutes at Large, which are published by the Government Printing Office. A more timely resource for finding the text of laws as originally passed by Congress is U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (U.S.C.C.A.N.), which is a commercial publication. Like the Statutes at Large, U.S.C.C.A.N. may be available at large public libraries or federal depository libraries.

Public laws may be available in large library systems or college libraries, frequently as a part of their participation in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP). Over 1,100 libraries participate in the FDLP, collecting and/or providing public access to government documents. A list of depository libraries is available on GPO's website. Since most depository libraries are within a university or state library, calling ahead to ask about hours is advised.

Finding Laws on the Web

The full text of more recent laws are on the GPO govinfo and websites.

How United States Laws Are Made

Laws begin as ideas and are created as a result of intense debate and discussion in the Legislative Branch of government. This debate and discussion is made available to the public in the Congressional Record, which you can read online since 1989. To read historical debate regarding laws, visit A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873.

For a complete study of the lawmaking process read How Our Laws Are Made (see below).

Find California Laws

How California Laws Are Made

Like federal laws, laws in California begin as ideas that are debated in the California State Legislature, which is composed of the State AssemblyState Senate, and several other departments.

For a complete study of how California laws are made, see The Life Cycle of Legislation in California, by clicking on its link below.