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U.S. Laws and Legislation: Overview

Getting Started

There are different types of laws, and you will need to know what kind you are looking for to get started.

  • Statutory law is written by legislative bodies, e.g., Congress and state legislatures.
  • Case law is that established by courts, e.g. common law, and interpretation of statutes and constitutions.
  • Regulations are laws written by agencies, e.g. Environmental Protection Agency.

You will also need to know what level of government would be creating the law: federal, state, or local.

Use secondary analysis sources to discover what laws might relate to your topic. Keep in mind that laws change over time, so you want your secondary sources to match the time period that you are interested in.

Background Information

Find Laws by Topic

Quick Tips for Finding Bills and Laws

  • Try searching in Wikipedia by topic or popular name of a bill or statute. Wikipedia articles on these include links to the official U.S. Code.
  • For bills, Congress.gov allows for searching by popular name.
  • Sometimes, the corresponding government agency website has information about related laws. 
  • To narrow results to a specific bill or law or related documents, use the official public law or bill number. Numbers can be found in Congress.gov, Wikipedia, U.S. Code, etc.

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