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Legislative Research for GOVT 452

Learn to trace the history of a bill, e.g. for the legislative history in assignment 2 for GOVT 452.

Find the law that created your agency

Your goal is to find out about the law that established your agency. The steps below use the example of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Step 1: Locate the name and year of the law that created your agency

Option A: Visit the agency's website. Look for a link to "about" or "history". Most agencies identify the law through which they were created by name. Some also include the U.S. Code citation.

Example: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was established by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. 5801)


Option B: You will find a profile of your agency in the United States Government Manual [as of Spring 2022 this resource was not being updated, but the law and US Code citation are usually still correct!].

  • Tip: some agencies are inside departments--check Wikipedia or agency website to figure out where to look for your agency.

  • Tip: the agency's profile in the US Government Manual also includes head of agency, agency type, and overview of agency function.

  • Link:

Step 2: Get from your law's Popular Name to its US Code, Stat, & PL citations, as well as bill number

Where to look:

  • OPTION A: Use  Proquest Legislative Insight:
    • Follow along with this quick step-by-step guide or us this PDF handout.
    • Enter the popular name of the law (the search box will guess & autofill the law of interest)
    • Open the legislative history for that law to obtain basic citation information. The citations you need appear in the first lines of the legislative history.
    • Note: The Legislative History in Proquest Legislative Insight contains far more information than you need for Assignment 2. Just find the citations you need for Question 7 and the bill number.
  • OPTION B: Use the Table of Popular Names in the Cornell Legal Information Institute
    • Open the Table of Popular Names
    • Select the first letter of your law's name
    • Scroll down (or use control + F [command +F for macs] and enter the beginning of the law's name)
    • Record the various citations provided under your law's name 
    • The Table of Popular Names does not include the Bill number. For this you'll need to go to 
      • Limit the search to Legislation (the default is current legislation).
      • The results should pull up your law...check to make sure it's correct, then record the Bill #.

Example: The legal citations for the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 are

U.S. Code citation: 42 U.S.C. 5801

Public law number:  P.L. 93-438

Statutes at Large citation: 88 Stat. 1233

Enacted Bill 93 H.R. 11510

Law Enacted date: Oct. 11, 1974


If you can't figure out the right law for your agency...

Step 1: Look up your agency in the U.S. Code, then check the citations listed below the description/functions of your agency.

Option A: Browse in the Cornell LII U.S.Code

Option B: Advanced Search in (in "refine by collection", select US Code)


Step 2: Look up the citation you found in the U.S. Code via Proquest Congressional's Citation search (Click the "Legislative & executive publications" tab. In the dropdown menu, select "Search by number")