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Pritzker Legal Research Center

Standout Summer Research Resources

A Guide to Prepare for Summer Associateships and Beyond

Where to Locate Statutory Codes

For current, annotated federal and state statutory codes, use Westlaw and Lexis. Recall that annotated codes include not only the statutory text, but also citing references and Notes of Decisions. Citing references include every case and secondary source that has cited the section, whereas Notes of Decisions consist of select case summaries drafted by the Westlaw or Lexis editors.

The full-text of the U.S. Code (unannotated) is also available on:

State statutory codes (unannotated) are also available on state legislature websites.

Strategies for Finding Relevant Sections of Your Statute

  1. Secondary Sources.  Find a reference to the relevant title, chapter, or specific section of a statute in a secondary source. Wikipedia often has good summaries of federal statutes and a Google search can lead to agency websites with the text of the code and/or a summary of the law.
  1. Popular Name Table.  Many statutes are referred to by their popular name, also known as the short title. Use the Popular Name Table on Westlaw, LexisCornell's Legal Information Institute, or the U.S.H.R. – Office of the Law Revision Counsel website to look up acts by popular name.  This tool is also useful for finding cross references between public law/popular name section numbers and U.S. Code section numbers (e.g., CERCLA section 113 is located at 42 U.S.C. § 9613).
  1. Keyword search.  Think broadly when brainstorming search terms. When reviewing search results, focus on what title or chapter the results come from, then browse nearby sections using the table of contents. Using the advanced search feature on both Westlaw and Lexis, it is possible to search just the text of the code, not the annotations.
  1. Table of Contents.  Statutes are arranged by subject, so browse the table of contents to find related sections of the code. Consider browsing to a title or chapter, then performing a keyword search within that title or chapter. This will help eliminate extraneous results.
  1. Subject Index.  Available on Westlaw, this tool is useful when searching for common terms (e.g., corporations) or when keyword searches return too many or too few results. When viewing either the table of contents for a code or a specific code section, you will find a link for the index on the right side of the page.

No matter what strategy you use to find a section, use the table of contents to browse nearby sections!

How to Find Cases and Administrative Materials Interpreting Statutes

Start with resources selected by editors of the annotated codes. 

  • For interpretive cases, use the Notes of Decisions on Westlaw or Lexis. Pull up your statute section in either Westlaw or Lexis. In Westlaw, select the "Notes of Decisions" tab at the top of the page; in Lexis, click "NOTES" on the left side of the page.
  • For interpretive secondary sources, use the "Context & Analysis" and "Citing References" (filter to secondary sources) tabs in Westlaw; in Lexis, Shepardize your code section, then view "Other Citing Sources."  On both platforms, use the jurisdiction filter and/or the “search within results” feature to narrow your results.

Researching Historical Statutes

Historical versions of the U.S. Code are available on Westlaw (1990+), Lexis (1992+), HeinOnline (1925-2018), and Govinfo (1994+).

Historical versions of state statutes are also available on Westlaw & Lexis. Coverage varies by state, but generally begins in the mid-1980s. Meanwhile, for early, historical state codes, try HeinOnline's State Statutes: A Historical Archive library.

Finally, the PLRC has historical state statutes in print and on microform.  Ask a reference librarian for assistance.

Uniform Laws

If you need to research uniform laws, visit the Uniform Law Commission website. Here, you will find both the text of uniform laws and enactment status in specific jurisdictions.

Uniform Laws Annotated is available on Westlaw. It contains the text of uniform laws, annotations, and information about adoption by states, including citations to state codes.

Statutory Construction

For help with statutory construction, visit Sutherland Statutes & Statutory Construction on Westlaw. Also, consider researching your law's legislative history. Strategies are discussed in both the federal legislative history and state legislative history pages in this guide.