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View of Georgetown campus from the Virginia side of the Potomac

View of Georgetown campus from the Virginia side of the Potomac


This guide provides a basic introduction to U.S. legal research and to primary legal resources in the United States. Comparative and foreign research guides are also included.

Understanding Primary Legal Sources

Primary source refers to sources of law.  These include texts of legal bodies which include rules that govern a jurisdiction.

All branches of government produce laws and regulations.  Understanding the legal system helps focus your research. This chart reviews the process of enacting federal law.  State law is produced in a similar manner.




The Constitution
↓ ↓ ↓



Branch of Govt.





Type of Law Produced

Case Law




Chronological Publication of Law

Case Law Reporters

Session Laws (Stat. at Large)

 The Federal Register


Publication of Law By Subject


United States Code (USC)

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)


  Laws and regulations are published in codes by subject.  Case law is not published by subject.

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