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Administrative Law Research: Federal Register

Resources to help you get started with Administrative law research.

Federal Register

Before 1936, there was no system in place to publish regulations or executive orders; they were simply issued without an organized system.

The plethora of New Deal agencies and regulations made this situation untenable and thus, the Federal Register Act, Ch. 417, 49 Stat. 500 (1935) was enacted to put an end to the chaos.

Statutory Authority

Federal Register Act

The Federal Register Act mandates the publication of all presidential proclamations and executive ordersfederal regulations, and documents or classes of documents required to be published by Act of Congress that have general applicability and legal effect. In addition, in 1982 orders prescribing a penalty were added to this list.

Administrative Procedure Act

The subsequent enactment of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in 1946 gave the public the right to participate in agency rulemakings and expanded the scope of the Federal Register. Now, proposed rules are initially published in the Federal Register, the public and interested parties are now able to submit comments on the rules and the issuing agency is required to respond to those comments in the Federal Register. Publication of rules, proposed rules and other actions gives constructive notice of that action. The Federal Register is in essence a chronological publication of proposed and final rules with the agency’s rationale included.

As a result of the Administrative Procedure Act:
  • Proposed regulations must be published in the Federal Register
  • That there by time for comment and hearings, and 
  • That the final version of the regulation be published initially in the Federal Register and then permanently codified in the Code of Federal Regulations

Tips for Regulatory Research

Review Agency websites for in-depth information.

Use the Unified Agenda to keep track of regulations, especially ones with lengthy and complicated histories (Click here for more information about using the Unified Agenda).

Use to view and comment on pending rulemakings.

New Federal Register Notices

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Researching the Federal Register

There are many different documents in the Federal Register. They include: 


Table of contents  which arranges documents by agency and category

CFR Parts Affected in this Issue

List of C.F.R. parts affected by the proposed regulations in that issue

Rules and Regulations

Finalized agency rules; codified annually in the Code of Federal Regulations with citations to Federal Register

Interim & Interim Final Rules

Temporary rules with request for comment (speed usually needed)

Direct Final Rules

Finalized agency rules with request for comments & possible rule withdrawal

Proposed Rules

Proposed rules published in FR with request for comments (30 – 90 days) (NPRM)

Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR)

Notice requesting comments for possible rule

Negotiated Rulemaking Documents

Notices regarding negotiated rulemaking committees

Petition for Rulemaking, Petition Findings

Requests, usually from non-governmental bodies

Presidential Documents

Includes limited presidential documents in the "special sections"


Certain agency announcements on meetings, applications, grants, decisions, authority delegations, information collection activities, policy statements, etc.

Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations

Regulatory agendas from individual agencies (April & October)

Reader Aids and Other Material

Info on publisher, subscriptions, table of contents, CFR parts affected, customer service, electronic research, CFR parts affected during current month, list of new laws 

Special Sections

Selected agency documents

See the Federal Register Document Drafting Handbook for more information

Viewing the Most Recent Federal Register Documents

To view proposed regulations and final regulations BEFORE they appear in the FR, use the National Archives Public Inspection Feature.

New documents appear in the Electronic Public Inspection Desk at about 8:45 a.m. each business day.

Regular filing documents are placed on file at 8:45 a.m. for publication in the next day's Federal Register.

Special Filing Documents are filed at other times prior to publication. These documents are not available in electronic form, but a list of these documents can be viewed here.


Database Library Coverage
LexisAdvance FR - Federal Register Vol. 45 (1980-)
Westlaw Federal Register (FR) Vol. 46 (1981-)
HeinOnline HeinOnline Federal Register Library V0l. 1 (1936-)
ProQuest Regulatory Insight Federal Register Vol. 3 (1938-)


Online Sources for the Federal Register

These free online sources contain the Federal Register and many different interactive features to search and engage in the regulatory process.

Website Information Coverage
Gov.Info full text .PDF copies Vol. 1 (1936-) includes regulations that are open for public comment  

In addition, individual agency websites may also have Federal Register material on their websites. See the U.S. Government Manual for a list of Federal Agency websites.

Federal Register @ Pence Law Library


Recent paper copies of the Federal Register are available online and at the Pence Law Library in the 3rd Floor - Federal Section.


The Federal Register is also available in Microformat and may be requested from offsite storage through our ILL Service.

In addition, Federal Register documents may be accessible through various topical commercial databases and looseleafs. See the Secondary Sources Page to see a list of relevant topical looseleaf materials and databases.

Citing the Federal Register

Bluebook Rule 14.2 governs Federal Registrar Citations

  • Cite rules or regulations from the federal register only if a code of federal regulations citation is unavailable
  • Make sure to use the commonly used name, the volume and page number and the date and its Code of Federal Regulations citation if available
  • Proposed rules are cited in the same manner as final rules, but the status of the rule is added to the date parenthetical