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Federal (U.S.) Regulation Research

Federal Regulation research is divided into two separate areas: (1) administrative law, which deals with the validity and creation of agency created law; and (2) the research of the agency law itself. This series of research guides deals with the latter.

The Steps

Since the Administrative Procedure Act (c. 324, 80 Stat. 237 (1946)) was passed, most federal regulations must be created by a process called "notice and comment." This means that when a regulation is being created, public notice must be given. This notice must include the proposed text of the regulation. The comment portion requires agencies to allow the public to participate in the creation of regulations by giving them the ability to express their opinion about the regulation to the agency.

  • Agency authority to create regulations comes from statutory laws.
  • Proposed regulations are published in the Federal Register.
  • Comments can be found on
  • Final actions create, amend, and remove agency regulatory law. Just like public laws create, amend, and remove statutory law.
  • "Prelim" is the information before the text of the regulations in a final action. This is the regulation's "legislative history."
  • Titles and Sections of proposed and final regulations published in the Federal Register are numbered as they are or will be in the Code of Federal Regulations.  In Contrast the Titles and Sections of bills and public laws are not number as they are or will be in the United States Code.
    • NOTE: "Title:" is used two ways in these research guides. "Title," capitalized, indicates the upper organization level of the Code of Federal Regulations.  A Title is a number, 1 - 50. Title, lower case, indicates the label of a Title, Chapter, Part, Section, etc.
      • For example, 36 CFR §21.11's Section title is "Redemption of bath tickets,"  while its Title is 36, and Title 36's title is "Parks, Forest, and Public Property."

Detailed descriptions of regulations and the rule making process are available from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in their FAQs, including The Reg Map, and from the Office of the Federal Register in: A Guide to the Rulemaking Process.

The Reg Map divides the process of creating a regulation into 9 steps.  The last tabs of this research guide follows the organization of  The Reg Map. After each step, a brief description of the step is provided , followed by a list of the sources you can use to find out if the step has happened or is happening, along with information about documents that have or will be created during that particular step. The last tab lists all the information created during each step of the process.


Some additional useful (for research) information about federal regulations

Involvement of the Executive Office of the President:

  • The President- as head of the executive branch, the president can issue executive orders directing how regulations are to be created and reviewed.
  • The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) is a subagency of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is within the Executive Office of the President. OIRA reviews significant regulations before publication to ensure compliance with Executive Order 12866.
    • See: FAQs / Resources on the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs site for details about this review process.

Glossary at definitions of rulemaking terminology.

Other useful numbers:

  • RIN (Regulation Identifier Number): the OMB's (Office of Management and Budget) identification number.  RINs are assigned to actions listed in agencies' Unified Agendas. They can be found in the agency's Unified Agenda, and often in Federal Register documents dealing with the rulemaking.
  • Docket ID: unique identifier to connect "put in" documents related to rulemaking into a docket folder.  Docket Folders are found on
  • Document ID: unique identifier for documents in docket folders.  ID begins with Docket ID and ends with a number unique to that Docket Folder.  Document IDs are used on


General overviews of federal regulation research