You may locate federal regulations in print and online by:
browsing or searching the table of contents;
consulting the annotations to a statute;
subject using an index or keyword search; and,
consulting the applicable federal agency website.
Print Code of Federal Regulations volumes are available on the First Floor of the Library.
Free online sources for the Federal Register are on govinfo.gov and FederalRegister.gov. The Federal Register is also available on subscription databases, such as Westlaw and Lexis, as well as FastCase.
Both the CFR and the Federal Register have official versions - which are either the print or PDF. When using an online database source, ensure that you are finding the official PDF version for citation purposes, which will have this symbol in the top left corner of the pages.
There are several ways to find a citation to a relevant regulation. Your supervising attorney may tell you about an applicable regulation. Or, you may find it:
For example, in its JDS Uniphase Corp. v. Jennings, 473 F. Supp. 2d 705 (E.D. Va. 2007) decision cited below, the federal district court for the Eastern District of Virginia cites the regulation requiring a person to file a whistleblower complaint with the OSHA office of the U.S. Department of Labor.
Once you know the citation to a particular federal regulation, you may simply go to that Title, Part, and Section in the appropriate print or online volume of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).
The volume for Title 29 of the CFR shown here contains "Part 1927 to End" which includes Part 1980. If you turn to Part 1980, you will find Section 1980.103 on filing retaliation complaints. Note that this edition was "Revised as of July 1, 2021." (Also note our Library Depository stamp is dated Feb 24, 2022, which is when we physically received this printed edition.)
You may also retrieve an entire Part or a specific federal regulation for free online using the Government Publishing Office's govinfo website, which maintains the official authenticated version of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (eCFR) is a web version of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that is regularly updated to better reflect its current status. The Office of Federal Register (OFT) updates the material in the eCFR on a daily basis. While they do not make updates in real-time, generally the eCFR is current within two business days.
The eCFR is an editorial compilation of CFR material and amendments published in the daily Federal Register. While it is an unofficial version of the Code of Federal Regulations, it does provide digital access to the official versions of the CFR on govinfo and in the Federal Register.
The e-CFR allows you to browse the CFR titles, parts, and sections or search the CFR for regulations by citation.
On the main page of eCFR, you will find a listing of all 50 titles of the CFR through which you can browse, the date each Title was last amended, and a link to view the recent changes.
Let's assume that you are looking for a regulation by citation: 14 C.F.R. 1217.106
To retrieve a federal regulation by citation in govinfo, select the “Citation” tab from the homepage. Choose “Code of Federal Regulations” from the drop-down menu and select the year to search; select the most recent year (2021 currently) to view the current regulation. Choose the title and enter the part, subpart, and section number if you have it. Then, click “Search.”
If you enter a specific section, govinfo will retrieve the only the pages on which that regulation appears.
To find the authority and source you will need to download the entire Part to view the enabling legislation and determine where the regulation was first published in the Federal Register.
The Authority and Source are listed just below the table of contents for the Part in the PDF/print version.
This Content Details page is not available for individual Sections, however some individual sections may have additional Source information.
Let's look again at the regulation by citation: 14 C.F.R. 1217.106
To retrieve a federal regulation by citation in eCFR, type the citation into the search box, and hit enter or the Go button.
Searching for a specific section of the CFR on eCFR will return just that section. From this page, you can scroll for (1) previous or (2) next sections,and go back (3) to the Part.
You can also search for the entire part, by entering the search term "14 CFR Part 1217". Either from the Part or the Section, you can obtain the Source and Authority information by clicking on the Details tab on the left-hand side of the page.
This Detail information is related to the entire Part, not just a particular Section. If a section has been updated, amended or otherwise changed since the Part was enacted, the individual section will have that information in the body of the text on eCFR. In the Source information, where is states "unless otherwise noted" gives you a clue that some section of that Part has been subsequently amended or changed.
Whether you begin your research with a citation to a specific regulation (e.g., 29 C.F.R. 1980.103) or to an entire Part of a Title in the CFR (e.g., 29 C.F.R. pt. 1980), you should always use the Table of Contents located at the beginning of that Part to browse for surrounding regulations, such as definitions sections, that could help you with your research.
You can browse the table of contents for the Part you are researching in the print Code of Federal Regulations or online using the govinfo website. The govinfo website allows you to browse the entire CFR and all its titles, parts, and sections.
Browsing the table of contents in a title of the CFR can help you put a regulation into context. To browse the table of contents in govinfo, select the A to Z list to browse sources, click on the letter “C,” and choose “Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 1996 to Present” from the list of publications.
Click on the plus sign + next to the year of the CFR you want to see (2021 is the most recent at the time of this writing. You can also select Most Recent, however that will return multiple results), to bring up a list of titles.
Click on the plus sign + next to a Title to open the table of contents and view its Chapters, Subchapters, Parts, and sections.
The CFR is organized in hierarchical order of Titles > Chapters > sub-chapters > Parts > and Sections. Chapters and Parts will have Tables of Content (TOC)
You can download a PDF that is as general or specific as you need—the entire title, an entire chapter, subchapter, an entire part, or a section within a part.
Browsing the table of contents in eCFR can help you put a regulation into context.
To browse the table of contents in eCFR, select a Title and click on it. Then you will be able to see Chapters, subchapters, Parts, subparts and Sections. Note on the right side of the page is a list with the Part/Section numbers related to a Table entry. From this page you can expand and collapse each Title, Chapters, subchapters, Parts, and subparts using the ► at each level.
Often you will begin your research with a federal statute and will need to determine the agency and regulations, if any, that implement and enforce that law. The annotations to a section in an annotated code, in print or via Westlaw or Lexis, may include references to CFR sections associated with that statutory section.
For example, the following reference to the federal regulations governing procedures for handling complaints under the whistleblower provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act appears in the Research References and Practice Aids to 18 U.S.C.S. § 1514A, in Lexis:
If you do not see a reference to a relevant regulation for the specific statute you are researching, try using the table of contents to find a statute that authorizes a particular federal administrative agency to promulgate regulations. Then check the annotations to that authorizing statute.
Indexes can be very helpful for locating relevant federal regulations by subject. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) includes a volume.
The CFR Index and Finding Aids is available in print and online through the govinfo website.
One of the listings in the CFR Index (print version) to find the regulation for filing a retaliation complaint under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (29 CFR § 1980.103) is shown below:
The CFR Index and Finding Aids also contains a Parallel Table of Authorities & Rules available in print and online on govinfo, which provides a list of U.S. Code sections along with their corresponding federal regulations. Below is an example of the page in the Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules that includes a listing for 18 U.S.C. § 1514A and 29 Part 1980 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Keep in mind that regulations may be listed by the code section within an Act that authorizes a federal agency to promulgate regulations.
To access the CFR Index and Finding Aids in govinfo, select the A to Z list to browse sources, click on the letter “C,” and choose “CFR Index and Finding Aids” from the list of publications. Or, you may browse by Category for "Regulatory Information," and choose the “CFR Index and Finding Aids” from the list.
Click on the plus sign + next to a year of the CFR Index and Finding Aids, generally the most recent. Then, click on the plus sign + next to that year to view the contents of the CFR Index and Finding Aids. Click on the PDF button to view the CFR Index portion of the publication. Then use a Control-F or Command-F search to find specific index terms.
Keyword searching the text of the entire Code of Federal Regulations can yield many results. To best search federal regulations by keyword, if possible, narrow your search to the table of contents or a specific title of the Code of Federal Regulations and filter your results.
You can use the Advanced Search feature of the govinfo website to search the Full-Text of the Code of Federal Regulations, which allows you to "refine" your initial search by publication, by date, by agency author, and by title.
When using the advanced search, you may have to play with your search categories and terms. If you use a phrase as a search term, remember to put it in quotes - i.e. the name of an Act, or other related law.
Federal agency websites can be great resources for quickly identifying both the laws agencies are in charge of administering and the regulations they have written to implement them.
For example, OSHA maintains its whistleblowers.gov website for the over twenty whistleblower statutes it enforces. The website includes a Laws and Policy Guidance button at the top of the page to access links to statutes and regulations.
A federal agency may also post guidance documents such as opinion letters, policy interpretations, and compliance manuals on its website, as well as its formal and informal decisions adjudicating disputes over compliance with its regulations. The design of federal agency websites will differ from agency to agency, and you may need to browse or search the website of the agency to locate the document(s) you are searching for.