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Administrative Law Research: Primary Materials

Resources to help you get started with Administrative law research.

Primary Materials

Administrative Law primary materials consist of:

  • the Federal Register, which publishes new and final rules,
  • the Code of Federal Regulations, the compilation of regulations organized by subject
  • Agency Decisions and Adjudications 
  • Various different documents promulgated by agencies, and 
  • Presidential documents and executive branch materials

Federal Register

Federal Register

The Federal Register (FR or Fed. Reg.) is the official journal of the federal government of the United States that contains government agency rules, proposed rules, and public notices. It is published every weekday, except on federal holidays.

It contains the final rules promulgated by a federal agency which are published in the Federal Register are ultimately reorganized by topic or subject matter and codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is updated annually.

Administrative Decisions and Other Agency Actions

Administrative Decisions and Other Agency Actions

  • Agency Decisions and other agency actions are integral when looking at administrative law research.
  • Agency Decisions are authorized by law and issued by agencies. These decisions adjudicate violations or interpretations of statutes and regulations. 
  • "Orders" address final actions or dispositions, while "opinions" are the result of contemplated action and advice on the interpretation of statutes and regulations. 
  • There is no central place for these decisions and actions to be published. There are many different places for this information, including official reports issued by agencies or in commercial unofficial reporters and services.

Code of Federal Regulations

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) is the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States. The CFR is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation.

The 50 subject matter titles contain one or more individual volumes, which are updated once each calendar year, on a staggered basis.

Executive Orders & Presidential Documents

Executive Actions: Presidential "Lawmaking"

The President also engages in the administrative law process by promulgating executive orders and proclamations. Today, most of these documents are Executive Orders, while proclamations are primarily reserved for commemorative purpose like “National Girl Scout Week” & “Mother’s Day”. Until 2009, these materials appeared in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents. Now, these documents first appear in the Federal Register and then, in Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Public Papers of the Presidents. Executive orders and other Presidential actions also can now be found at In addition, there are also several books and online resources which update Executive Orders and Proclamations, going back to the Lincoln Presidency.

Citing Administrative Materials

Hierarchy of Citations - Bluebook Rule 14.3

1st - Cite to the agency's official reporter, if available

2nd - Cite the official release or slip opinion if no official reporter citation is available
3rd - As a last resort cite the providing service (Rule 19) or agency website (Rule 18.2) if the other two sources are unavailable.