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LGST 100: Foundations of Legal Studies: Find Laws for Your Project

Find Laws You Are Interested In

If you are unsure where to begin, one of the best strategies to discovering laws is secondary sources.  A journal article, newspaper article, or a law review article on a topic you are interested may reference a specific law.  Articles may also provide you with an overview of the law to help you better understand it.  The below sources are divided into U.S., State and Local Laws, and all will contain case law (aka judge-made law) when appropriate.  Knowing which level of government you are interested in can help you narrow your search, and will be essential in locating more information about the law. 

Some overall strategies:

  • Add the term "law" or "legal" or "code" to your searches (except when searching law reviews in Nexis Uni--formerly LexisNexis Academic)
  • Think broad (environment), then narrow your search (Air Quality/Pollution, Clean Air Act).
  • Searching is an iterative process, sometimes you take a couple steps forward, then a step back to get the best results.

Find U.S. Laws

Find State Laws

Find Local Laws

Start you search

Start your search here to find books, articles, and more:


Use LawCat to Find books or Journal Titles (not articles) at the Law Library. Undergraduates can use materials at the Law Library, but cannot borrow. If there is a resource you need to use over and over again, you can put it on Hold at the Circulation desk.

Search LawCat (the Berkeley Law Library catalog):

Reading a Legal Citation

Have you ever been puzzled by weird looking citations such as:

  • 410 U.S. 113
  • 40 CFR §129.4
  • 65 FR 741
  • 16 USC §4246

No need to worry.  These are legal citations and they are quite easy to read once you understand their logic and abbreviations.  The abbreviation in the middle tells you the publication you need.  The first number is the volume of the publication where the citation (law, regulation, opinon, etc) is published, and the second number is the page number where the citation appears.  For instance, 410 U.S. 113 would be read as: "Volume 410 of the United States Reports, page 113."  Sometimes the first number refers to a title/part number instead of a volume number and the second number refers to a section number instead of page number.  The real tricky part is figuring out the abbreviation for the publication.  Below are some of the more common abbreviations you may run into doing research.  As you become more familiar with legal research, you will recognize the more common abbreviations.  Common U.S. abbreviations can be found here.  For other legal citations (state, local and international), see Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations in the Doe Reference Collection.

U.S.-- United States Reports (Supreme Court opinions)
CFR -- Code of Federal Regulations (In this case, its [Title Number] CFR [Part/Section Number])
FR -- Federal Register
F -- Federal Reporter
F2d -- Federal Reporter, Second Series
USC -- U.S. Code (In this case, its [Title Number] USC [Section Number])
Stat -- U.S. Statutes at Large
Cal -- California Reporter

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