This is the "Step 1: Gather Basic Information" page of the "Legislative History--Federal" guide.
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Fordham University Law Library
This is a step-by-step guide for locating or compiling the legislative history of federal statutes. Read the General Introduction below and then follow the steps. To track a bill in the current Congress, go to the Bill Tracking tab.
Last Updated: Dec 5, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Step 1: Gather Basic Information Print Page


Before you being your research, assess the information that you have about the legislation of interest. Though they have official names, statutory enactments are most often refered to by their popular names. At the very least you need to know the popular name of the legistation you are researching. You should also try to locate public law number of the enactment.  You will also want to find the law's official session law citation (i.e. the United States Statutes-at-Large citation). It would be also helpful, but not necessary, to have the underlying bill number, i.e. the number of the bill that was passed to become your law.

If you already have a citation to a particular congressional document or are looking for legisation on a particular topic but do not have a specific enactment in mind, skip ahead to Step 5.


Basic Information Sources

  • Google is a great place to start.  For landmark legislation, Googling the popular name of the legislation will often retrieve a Wikipedia or other article providing the public law number (P.L.), the United States Statutes-at-Large citation (Stat.), and the enacted bill number (H.R. or S.).
  • Popular Name Tables: These tables are organized alphabetically by the popular name of the legislation.  Popular Name Tables in print are usually shelved at the end of the set in a single volume. Popular name tables list not only the public law number and official session law citation for the statute but also where each section of the statute appears in codified form.
    • United States Code Annotated (Open Reserve: KF62 1927.W45, Westlaw: USCA-POP)
    • United States Code Service (Open Reserve:KF62 1972 .L38, LexisNexis:  Search for the Statute by typing statute's popular name into search box. If possible, select the appropriate statute name when it appears below in the word wheel.
  • Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Names (Ref: KF90.S52): This three volume set lists the public law number and official session law citation for all federal statutes.  Browse by popular name of the act. 

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