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Federal Agencies and Executive Branch: Regulations


Secondary Sources
     Journal Articles

     Federal Register
     Code of Federal Regulations

Regulatory History
     Compiled Regulatory Histories
     Conducting Regulatory History                        Research

Administrative Agencies
     Administrative Decisions

Presidential Documents
     Presidential Proclamations and                        Executive Orders
     Presidential Directives
     Administrative Orders
     Reorganization Plans
     Other Presidential Information


Regulations created by administrative agencies are primary materials such as statutes and cases.

Rules and regulations of federal agencies are first published in the Federal Register, which comes out each business day, except federal holidays.

Regulations are eventually published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is a subject compilation of the rules and regulations in effect at the time of its publication. This guide offers more information about the Federal Register and the CFR and how to locate them., while not an official source of administrative rules, provides an online portal for access to agency rulemaking documents, including proposed rules and public comments submitted in regard to proposed rules.

The Law Librarians' Society of Washington D.C. has an excellent Research Guide to the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations. This guide provides information on the historical development of the Federal Register and CFR, guidance on the contents and organization of the Federal Register and CFR, and insight on finding tools to utilize with the Federal Register and CFR.


The Federal Register is the official publication of the executive branch. It is published daily and contains final regulations, proposed regulations, and notices of federal agencies and departments. It also includes presidential documents including executive orders and proclamations.

When a notice of proposed rulemaking or a proposed rule is printed in the Federal Register, the agency states why the rule is needed and under what "authority" (enabling act) the rule is being promulgated. Names and telephone numbers of agency contacts are given so that the agency can receive comments on the proposed rule. When the final rule is published in the Federal Register, a statement is typically included that summarizes the comments received on the rule and states any changes in the final rule. There is also a citation to the Federal Register where the proposed rule was printed.

The "Unified Agenda" is published in the Federal Register in October and April of each year. The "Agenda" is a good place to review and prepare for any regulatory activity.  Within the "Agenda," each agency lists the following information:

  • All pre-rule actions
  • All proposed rules that the agency has issued or expects to issue
  • Currently effective rules under agency review
  • Planned rules or actions and completed actions since the last "Agenda"

For more information on the Federal Register, visit the National Archive’s Federal Register Tutorial: What it is and How to Use It. 

Free Resources for the Federal Register The federal government’s GovInfo website provides access to the Federal Register starting with 1936. It also has a Federal Register Index. This website, a joint project  between the Office of the Federal Register of the National Archives and Records Administration and the U.S. Government Publishing Office, provides access to the Federal Register and information on the rule-making process. It also has a Federal register Index.  

Subscription Resources for the Federal Register
HeinOnline (coverage begins in 1936, available on campus and remotely with ASURITE)

Proquest Congressional (coverage begins in 1936, available on campus and remotely with ASURITE)

Westlaw (1936-current, Westlaw password required)

Lexis (1936-current, Lexis password required


The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) contains the general and permanent regulations of the agencies and executive departments of the federal government.  It is divided into 50 Titles, which each corresponding to a major subject area. The individual titles are arranged into chapters according to the issuing agency. The chapters are then divided into parts, which are further divided into sections.

Free Resources for the CFR
eCFR:  The federal government’s eCFR website provides a compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments. It is updated daily.

GovInfo.govThe federal government’s GovInfo website provides access to the historical CFR starting with 1996. The CFR on GovInfo is only as current as the published print version of the CFR, which is updated once yearly. GovInfo also has the List of CFR Sections Affected (LSA) available, which provides a cumulative list of CFR sections that have been changed at any time since each CFR title was last updated.

Subscription Resources for the CFR
HeinOnline (coverage begins in 1938, available on campus and remotely with ASURITE)

Proquest Congressional (coverage begins in 1938, available on campus and remotely with ASURITE)

Westlaw (Westlaw password required)

Lexis (current, Lexis password required)