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Legal Research FAQs: Finding A Statute Citation


This page gives tips on how to find a statute when you know its name or acronym, but not its citation.  Suggestions are given for federal statutes, Illinois statutes, and statutes from other states.

Electronic and print sources are included.  Access to some of the electronic resources is limited to users who have a valid Loyola ID and password.  Access to other resources is restricted to the Law School community.  Bloomberg Law, Lexis and Westlaw require individual user IDs and passwords.

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Federal Statutes

When all you have is a federal statute's acronym (e.g. CERCLA) or its name (e.g. "Megan's Law"), the best way to find the citation is to use a Popular Name Table.  For each entry, Popular Name Tables provide the statute's popular name, official name, and citation.

In print, the official version of the United States Code (KF 62 2006), as well as West's United States Code Annotated (KF 62 .W4) and Lexis's United States Code Service (KF 62 1972 .L38) all have popular name tables giving cites for well known (and not so well known) statutes.  Those tables can be found in the volumes at the end of the sets.

Usually you find three parts to citation information in a Popular Names Table.  The United States Code (U.S.C.) cite provides its location in the subject-based publication of federal statutes.  The Public Law (Pub. L.) number gives the chronological number assigned to it at its passage by Congress.  The Statutes at Large (Stat.) citation is to its location in the official, bound, chronological set of federal laws.  (For more about federal statutes, see the Statutes page of our First Year Legal Research Guide.)

Online, check the following sources:

Illinois Statutes

For Illinois statutes, both the official version of Illinois Compiled Statutes (KFI 1229 .I44) and West's Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated (KFI 1230 1993 .A4) include a popular name table in the last volume of the index.  The Lexis version of Illinois Compiled Statutes Annotated (KFI 1230 1993 .A42) does not have a popular name table per se, but at the end of Vol. 50 (Tables), there is a "Cross Reference by Act Short Title to ILCS" table that effectively achieves the same thing, although not as comprehensively. (For more about Illinois statutes, see the Illinois Resources page of our First Year Legal Research Guide.)

Remaining 49 States

For states other than Illinois, check Pegasus to see if we carry the statutes - if we do, most have popular name tables as per the West ILCS.  If we don't, Shepard's Acts and Cases by Popular Names: Federal and State (KF 90 .S52 2010, Law Reference), is pretty much the only popular name table available without access to Lexis or Westlaw.  The set includes citations to statutes from all 50 states, indexed by popular name, and is a handy resource for doing multi-state research.  If you are looking for a statute that is part of a Uniform Act (e.g. Uniform Commercial Code, Uniform Probate Act), you can use Uniform Laws Annotated (KF 165 .A51 1968, Law Main Stacks) to see which states have adopted the Act in question and the citations to the Act in those states' codes.