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Circuit Riders: Finding Federal Regulations

Basic Legal Research Guide

Finding Federal Regulations in Print

If you have access to the Code of Federal Regulations in print, you can find federal regulations by:
(1) citation;
(2) annotations to the U.S. Code; 
(3) browsing the table of contents; and
(4) subject.

(1) Citation
If you know the citation to a federal regulation, you can retrieve it by going to the print volume of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) that contains the title (34), part (300), and section (1) you need (34 C.F.R. § 300.1).

§ 300.1   Purposes.

The purposes of this part are—

(a) To ensure that all children with disabilities have available to them a free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living;

(b) To ensure that the rights of children with disabilities and their parents are protected;

(c) To assist States, localities, educational service agencies, and Federal agencies to provide for the education of all children with disabilities; and

(d) To assess and ensure the effectiveness of efforts to educate children with disabilities.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1400(d))

Text of the IDEA  Regulation

(2) Annotations to the U.S. Code
You may begin your research with a federal statute such as a section of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If you have access to an annotated U.S. Code, the annotations to that code section may include references to CFR sections associated with it.

(3) Table of Contents
Table of Contents for Subpart A of Part 300 of Title 34 of the CFR.
Once you find one federal regulation that addresses your legal issue, you can browse the Table of Contents for other related regulations.

For example, listed below section 300.1 Purposes in the table of contents on the right for Subpart A of Part 300 of Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations are DEFINITIONS USED IN THIS PART. Included in the list of definitions is section 300.17, which defines the term Free Appropriate Public Education used in section 300.1 Purposes. 

34 C.F.R. § 300.17

Free appropriate public education or FAPE means special education and related services that—

(a) Are provided at public expense, under public supervision and direction, and without charge;

(b) Meet the standards of the SEA, including the requirements of this part;

(c) Include an appropriate preschool, elementary school, or secondary school education in the State involved; and

(d) Are provided in conformity with an individualized education program (IEP) that meets the requirements of §§ 300.320 through 300.324.

(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1401(9))

                                                                                Text of the IDEA Regulation

(4) Subject

The official print Code of Federal Regulations includes a CFR Index and Finding Aids volume for locating federal regulations by subject.


The law library also maintains a current copy of the multi-volume West's Code of Federal Regulations General Index in its collection.


Finding Federal Regulations for Free Online

Federal Register

Proposed regulations, with requests for comments, and final regulations of federal agencies are published daily in the Federal Register. You can access the Federal Register  on the GPO's govinfo website. Related Resources at the bottom of the Federal Register page in govinfo include links to an unofficial web-searchable daily edition of the Federal Register at and for citizens to track and comment on proposed regulations.

Code of Federal Regulations
The Code of Federal Regulations (Annual Edition) is available on the GPO's govinfo website to retrieve by citation; browse by title, part, and section; or keyword search. You can also find regulations by subject using the annually revised CFR Index and Finding Aids.

Code of Federal Regulations (Annual Edition) on the govinfo website.

The Code of Federal Regulations page in govinfo also provides a link to browse or search the regularly updated unofficial e-CFR (Electronic Code of Federal Regulations).  


Finding Federal Regulations Using Agency Websites

Federal agency websites can be great resources for finding links to the federal laws they enforce and the regulations they issue to do so. For example, the U.S. Department of Education maintains a website devoted to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The IDEA website includes a Law and Policy tab, which provides a link to the regulations the department issues to implement the requirements of the IDEA..

IDEA Website.


You can find an A-Z Index of of U.S. government department and agency websites on the website where you can also search for agencies by topic.

Finding Federal Regulations Using Subscription Databases

Some public libraries and colleges and universities provide access to annotated versions of the Code of Federal Regulations through subscriptions to Westlaw or Lexis.

For example, the Richland Library and the Greenville County library systems offer public access Westlaw to its members and the University of South Carolina subscribes to NexisUni™, formerly LexisNexis Academic.

Both subscription databases allow you to retrieve a federal regulation by citation; browse by title, part and section; and search the text of their annotated versions of the Code of Federal Regulations.