Skip to Main Content
Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Logo

Pritzker Legal Research Center

Standout Summer Research Resources

A Guide to Prepare for Summer Associateships and Beyond

Intro to Federal Administrative law

Federal administrative law refers to law created by the executive branch, both agencies and the President.  Most often the phrase administrative law is used to refer to the body of agency-made law "consisting of administrative rules, regulations, reports, or opinions containing findings of fact, and orders." (Black's Law Dictionary, 10th Edition).

Administrative Opinions

In addition to the quasi-legislative role of rulemaking, agencies can also have a quasi-judicial role. The terminology used for the adjudicatory functions of agencies varies from agency to agency. Decisions in disputed cases may be referred to as decisions or opinions, but they may also be called orders or releases. This guide is designed to provide assistance with researching federal regulations, agency decisions and Presidential documents.  

For help locating administrative decisions and other guidance, see the Agency Decisions and Guidance page on our Federal Administrative Law Research Guide.

Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) is the codification of rules created by the departments and agencies of the Federal Government. It is divided into 50 titles that represent broad areas subject to federal regulation.  The 50 subject titles of the regulations in the C.F.R. are similar but not identical to the titles of the federal statutes in the U.S. Code.

Here is an example of a regulation in the C.F.R.

21 CFR § 110.110

21 C.F.R. § 110.110

The first number is the title number, letting you know the general subject area of the regulation. 

Title 21 - Food and Drugs

The second number is the part and section number, separated by a period.

§ 110.110 Natural or unavoidable defects in food for human use that present no health hazard.
Very often regulations are referred to in groups by their part number.  For example,  this specific regulation may be referred to with the other surrounding regulations as 21 C.F.R. Part 110. Current Good Manufacturing Practice in Manufacturing, Packing, or Holding Human Food.  Note that this group of regulations is also organized into Chapters, Subchapters, Parts and Subparts, but that information is not included in the citation.   Browsing the table of contents to see this organizational structure can provide helpful context when researching regulations. 

Where can I find the C.F.R.?

The C.F.R. is available via the following databases and websites:

Finding Regulations from a Statute

If you have already identified a statute and are looking for related regulations, use the following tools:

Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules.  This table cross references each regulation in the C.F.R. to its enabling legislation in the U.S. Code.  The Parallel Table of Authorities is available via the Legal Information Institute (LII) and GPO's FDSys.

Annotations in the U.S. Code

Regulatory History

To understand why an agency created or amended a regulation, consult the preamble in the Notice of Final Rulemaking that was published in the Federal Register.  The introductory part of the Notice containing the summary of why the agency is creating or amending the rule is referred to as the preamble, however, note that the word preamble does not actually appear in the Notice.

To locate the Notice of Final Rulemaking for a specific regulation, look at the text of the regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.).  At the end of the text of the rule, look at the source note or credit section.  This will provide a chronological list of citations to the Federal Register (F.R.) for when the rule was first published and every time it was amended.

The Federal Register citations listed for this CFR section are 51 F.R. 22475, 54 FR 39633, 62 FR 51514, 80 FR 566144, 81 FR 49896, and 83 FR 46107.  Every one of those notices would potentially discuss the change that you are interested in, although you may be able to narrow the list down by date.