Skip to main content

Legal Research: Regulatory Law

This guide will describe the basics of doing legal research at the URI Libraries.

Basics of Regulatory Law

Because the legislative process is such a deliberative one, most laws are written to be broad and sweeping.  However there will be included language that will state that a certain agency will have the mandate to carry out the law.  This day to day execution of the law is carried out by the agency through regulations.  Regulations will be quite detailed and they carry the force of law.  Regulations are first issued as "proposed rules" and comments are invited for a certain length of time.  The comments are taken into account by the issuing agency when they issue the "final rule". 

Both proposed rules and final rules are published chronologically in a register.  For federal regulations this is the Federal Register.  For Rhode Island regulations, this is the Rhode Island Register.  Federal regulations are also posted online via Regulations.gov and are also available via Nexis Uni (LexisNexis).  Rhode Island rules are also posted online via the Secretary of State's regulations database page and are also available via Nexis Uni (LexisNexis).

It's not very convenient to find and use a rule in a chronological arrangement.  Once a rule is published,  it's codified, that is, merged with the other rules currently in force and arranged in divisions of subject areas called titles.  The Code of Federal Regulations covers federal regulations.  It's available in both print format and online through GPO's FDSys and through Nexis Uni (LexisNexis). The Code of Rhode Island Rules covers Rhode Island regulations.  It's available in both print format and through LexisNexis.

The boxes below show:

For more information on how to find and use federal regulations, please also see the following guide.

How to Search for Regulations

When searching for regulations, it's usually best to start with the current code first even if you need the text of a regulation as it was originally published.  For federal regulations, this would be the Code of Federal Regulations or CFR.  The CFR will not only have the current regulation, it will cite to the original Federal Register text so you don't have to do a cumbersome search of the whole Federal Register

If your regulation is no longer in force, then you'll need to search the Federal Register.  When searching the Federal Register, keep in mind that this is a publication that routinely published over 20,000 pages a year going back to 1936.  It's a good idea to carefully plan your search strategy and to limit by date.

For state regulations, the Code of Rhode Island Rules will include the current regulation and will also cite the original regulation which is on file at the Secretary of State's office or available through the Secretary of State's Rules and Regulations database.

The images below of the Lexis Uni (LexisNexis) version of a federal regulation on outdoor advertising in the CFR points out some useful features to help in your research.

Regulations are constantly being issued so it's critical to make sure that the regulation you're interested in is up to date.  It's also important to make sure that you have all the pertinent regulations to your topic and how they all relate to each other.

Some Features of the CFR in Lexis Nexis

 

Every regulation in the CFR will cite the original publication in the Federal Register if you need the text of the regulation as originally issued.  It will also cite the law that gives the authority to issue the regulation.

History and Authority Cites

Sources for Federal Regulations

The sources below are listed in alphabetical order.  If a source is available in both print and online formats, the print version is listed first.

Sources for Rhode Island Regulations

The sources below are listed in alphabetical order.  If a source is available in both print and online formats, the print version is listed first.

My Profile

Deborah Mongeau's picture
Deborah Mongeau
Contact:
University Libraries

Public Services Department

phone: (401) 874-4610

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.