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Research Tips for Faculty Research Assistants

This guide supplements training for research assistants for law faculty.


Administrative law is created by administrative agencies on both the Federal and State level. Administrative agencies are created by statute.  An enabling provision defines the agency’s scope of power and that scope may not be exceeded.  

Administrative agencies create rules and regulations to implement and enforce statutes. These rules and regulations look like statutes and have the same legal effect. Some agencies also have power to adjudicate disputes and issue rulings, similar to the judicial branch.

Administrative Law Sources

Federal Register    

Before a regulation can become law, it must be published in the Federal Register as a “proposed regulation.” This first publication provides the public with notice and an opportunity to comment on the proposed law. After comments have been reviewed and considered, and appropriate changes made, the regulation is published again, this time as a “final regulation.” All final regulations are codified and printed in the Code of Federal Regulations. 

Proposed regulations can be easily tracked on, a free government website. is also a great site for submitting comments on proposed regulations. 

The Federal Register is published every business day and is available both electronically and in print. It is available free of charge on, and can also be found on all major legal research databases, including Lexis and Westlaw. The Law Library receives the print edition of the Federal Register from the federal government as part of our depository status, but only retains the most recent six months. It can be found on the second floor of the law library near the Reference Desk, in ranges 2:12 through 2:13.  

Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains all rules and regulations currently in effect in the United States. In the CFR, regulations are codified topically making specific provisions easily findable through a subject index. The CFR is divided into 50 numbered titles, and a new edition is published each year, in four installments. The cover of the print CFR changes annually for easy identification.

The CFR is available free of charge on, and can also be found on all of the major legal research databases, including Lexis and Westlaw. The Law Library receives the print edition of the Code of Federal Regulations from the government as part of our depository status.  It is located on the second floor of the law library in ranges 2:11 through 2:12.

Because the CFR is only updated annually, and new regulations continue to be made daily, it is extremely important to make sure your CFR section is current and that no changes have been made.  The CFR is generally up to date on both Lexis and Westlaw, and only one or two days behind on The “CFR Parts Affected” section located in the back of the most recent daily Federal Register will show any changes up to the current date.

Administrative Law Decisions

Some administrative agencies also have power to adjudicate disputes and issue decisions, similar to the judicial branch. The federal government publishes many of these decisions and distributes them to depository libraries throughout the country. A number of agencies post their decisions on their official website. Looseleaf services are another great source for locating administrative law decisions in specific subject areas. Administrative law decisions can also be found on Lexis, Westlaw and HeinOnline, although coverage varies widely.

A list of federal agencies that issue administrative law decisions can be found in the appendix of The Bluebook in Table T1.2.

Administrative Law Treatises

Three-volume, annually updated treatise provides analysis of the latest administrative law developments and trends.

Reviews general principles and policy considerations of federal, state, and local agency procedures. Chapters include discussion of authority delegation, political controls over agencies, scope of judicial review, acquiring and disclosing information, and informal administrative processes.

Covers such issues as external controls on administrative agencies, the exercise of agency power, agency decision-making, informal agency action and judicial review of agency actions, judicial review and private actions against the government and government officials.

Provides the latest case law, and the most recent legislation affecting federal agency rulemaking. This manual provides discussion related to how federal rules are made, with an integrated view of the procedural requirements.

This West hornbook covers administrative law topics such as adjudication; rulemaking; due process; the Freedom of Information Act; judicial, executive, and legislative control of agency discretion; the Privacy Act; and the Government in the Sunshine Act.

Six- volume, Looseleaf, analyzes all aspects of administrative law and the administrative process. Also available on Lexis:

Covers all aspects of dealing with federal and state agencies. Also available on Westlaw:


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