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Research Guides in Focus – How to Trace Federal Regulations: A Beginner’s Guide

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The following is a guest post by Anna Price, a legal reference librarian at the Law Library of Congress.

Introduction page of How to Trace Federal Regulations: A Beginner's Guide Research Guide
Introduction page of How to Trace Federal Regulations: A Beginner’s Guide Research Guide,

For this latest installment of Research Guides in Focus, we are presenting an overview of one of the Law Library’s newest additions to our Research Guide collection – How to Trace Federal Regulations: A Beginner’s Guide. The guide begins by introducing readers to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It gives an overview of its publication schedule and directs researchers to where they may find the CFR online, including the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) and govinfo.

The guide then offers a brief tutorial on authority notes and source notes. Researchers at the Law Library of Congress frequently wish to read the text of a rule or regulation that was in effect on a certain date. I have found that when they learn how to interpret source notes, they gain an understanding of how rules and regulations differ from legislation and feel empowered to dig into the text on their own. The guide’s background on these features is useful not only for beginners, but also more experienced researchers who want a brief refresher on administrative law.

Finally, the guide instructs readers on how to find rulemaking docket information. It discusses the difference between a regulation identifier number (RIN) and a docket number, how to find these numbers, and how to use them to navigate rulemaking materials with websites like

We hope you will find this guide helpful in your research. As always, if you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.


  1. Very helpful. Great !

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