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International Social Welfare Policy

Things to Consider When Researching U. S. Policy Topics

—Keep these questions in mind as you begin reading overviews.  If you begin to figure out the answers to these questions during priliminary research and reading, the answers may allow you to locate additional research much more easily.—

Have governmental policies on your topic been proposed or created, or are you proposing something entirely new?

If you are proposing something new, can you locate any pilot studies similar to what you want to propose?

If something was proposed or created before, is the activity related to your policy topic legislative (laws or bills), executive (regulations), or judicial (court decisions)?

* Legislation, including laws and bills, come from the legislative branch of government, which is Congress (House of Representatives and Senate for federal, Assembly and Senate for New York State).

* Regulations come from the executive branch of government, which includes government agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration.

* The judicial branch of government decides cases.

Definitions of Administrative Law and Regulations:

* Administrative Law- regulations and rules established by agencies formed by federal or state legislatures. The legislative statutes establishing these agencies give them their authority. from: administrative law. (1998). In Mosby's Emergency Dictionary. Retrieved October 19, 2007, from

* Regulation- An agency is often delegated the power to issue regulations by the legislation that created it. Regulations must be made in accordance with prescribed procedures, such as those set out in the federal or a state Administrative Procedure Act. Federal regulations are first published in the Federal Register and later codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. from: regulation. (1996). In Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law. Retrieved October 19, 2007, from

Do you know if a law was passed or if a bill was introduced on your topic?

If so, was it at local, state, or federal level?

When did the law pass or when was the bill introduced?  Was it passed as part of another law or did it amend another law?  Has it been overturned?  Is it reauthorized periodically?

Have you found an exact title of a bill or law, a public law (PL) number or a bill number?  These may be helpful for locating the text of a law or bill, and in understanding what you are reading.

Learning About Federal Legislative Documents


Explore a Bill Video Tutorial from

Using Search Terms & Facets from
How to do a search on and refine the results with the facets

Researching Federal Statutes

Accessing Federal Legislative Documents

Govtrak by Subject

Govtrak Advanced Search makes federal United States legislative information freely available to the public. Launched Sept. 19, 2012, this version of the site is created as a successor to, the former public site for legislative information. The site contains legislation from 1973 the  to the present, member of Congress profiles, Committe Reports, and more.  Dates of coverage are listed for other legislative documents

Browse the U.S. Code The Code is the laws of the U.S. when they are published for the second time, organized by titles such as Title 38 Veteran's benefits and Title 20 Education.  The Code is legislation integrated with other legislation on relevant subjects.  This version of the law is sometimes referred to as "consolidated law".  It is divided by title, chapter, and section numbers.

US Code Classification Tables
" These tables show where recently enacted laws will appear in the United States Code and which sections of the Code have been amended by those laws. The tables sorted in Public Law order may be used to identify the sections of the Code affected by a particular law. The tables sorted in Code order may be used to determine whether a particular section of the Code has recently been amended. The tables only include those provisions of law that have been classified to the Code. The text of recently enacted laws may be found through the Library of Congress Thomas web site."


Provides free online access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government.

HeinOnline Government, Politics and Law Collection

Includes US Code; US Congressional documents; US federal agency documents, decisions and appeals; US federal legislative history; US statutes at large; writings of the US Attorney General; law review journals; history of international law and more.