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Legal Research Process


Once you have found relevant regulations in the CFR, you may wish to understand why the regulation appears the way that it does. Compiling a regulatory history may help. That is, just as one can turn to legislative history as a possible means for understanding legislative intent as a tool in statutory interpretation, so can a researcher try to piece together an agency's intent.

Steps (working backward in time):

  1. Look up CFR citation
  2. Look for Source section
    • Placement differs between print, Westlaw, and Lexis
    • Lists different Fed. Reg. rules that led to current regulation
  3. Look up the relevant Fed. Reg. citation that led to the portion of the current regulation that interests you
    • This is the final rule which contains the preamble laying out the agency's thinking
    • It references the proposed rule
  4. Look up the proposed rule
    • Review the preamble laying out the agency's initial thinking and compare
    • Compare the proposed rule to the final rule
  5. See if you can locate comments submitted to the agency (may be through