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US Legislative Materials & Histories: Finding the Public Law (PL) Number & Statutes at Large Citation

This guide is designed to help you find federal legislative documents in the Law Library, in the Graduate Library, and through online resources

Finding the Public Law (PL) Number and Statutes at Large Citation

When You Only Know the Subject/Topic


To find the citation, use the subject index volumes to the official or annotated United States Codes.

The subject index to any of these sets (located near the end of the set) will refer you to the code citation. Look up the code citation. The Public Law (P.L.) number (e.g., P.L. 101-368) and the Statutes at Large citation (e.g., 92 Stat. 1074) appear at the end of the text of the statute in U.S.C., U.S.C.A., and U.S.C.S.

The Statutes at Large are available via HeinOnline  (with a 3-4 year time lag) and via ProQuest Congressional (with a 1-2 year time lag).

The United States Code is also available on GovInfo (1994 - present).

Very Recent Acts

The first place to look for a new Public Law is, which contains information on Public Laws beginning with the 93rd Congress (1973-1974). You can browse by Public Law Number, Bill Number, or search by keyword.

In paper, new statutes appear first in one of four publications. The currency of the publications described below varies. If one source lacks a recent enactment, try the others. Statutes usually appear in one or more of these sources between one and two months after passage.

The UCS Congressional and Administrative News, USCS, and USCA (latter two linked above) publish new federal session laws within a month or so from enactment. These advance sheets or pamphlets are added to the end of the print set as they arrive. They include a subject index and popular name table.

Early Federal Statutes

There are two subject indexes to early federal statutes: Beaman & McNamara's Index Analysis of the Federal Statutes, 1789-1873 and McClenon & Gilbert's Index to the Federal Statutes, 1874-1931. These are shelved immediately before the Statutes at Large set. Also, each volume of Statutes at Large has its own index, which is helpful if you know the approximate date that the law was passed.

When You Only Know the Popular Name of the Act

The U.S.C., U.S.C.A., and U.S.C.S., have tables which alphabetically list popular names of acts and provide complete citations, including Public Law (P.L.) numbers and Statutes at Large references. Popular name tables are located near the end of each set, after the general index. and the House of Representatives' website both have tools to search for Public Laws and U.S. Code sections by popular name. 

When You Only Know the United States Code (USC) Citation

The Statutes at Large citation and the Public Law (P.L.) number will be found following the text of the statute in the U.S.C., U.S.C.A., and U.S.C.S.  See links, above.

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