Master the CFR: Researching the Code of Federal Regulations

The Code of Federal Regulations, or CFR for short, consists of regulations from over 300 federal agencies. Agencies publish their regulations,
along with any changes, in the daily Federal Register. Editors at the Office of the Federal
Register are responsible for reprinting in the CFR exactly what agencies publish in the
Federal Register. If you suspect that an error has been
made in the CFR, whether some wording or grammar appears to be wrong, or information appears to be missing or misleading, you can conduct your own research to determine if in fact the text is in error. Performing legal research in the CFR involves 4 steps: retrieving the CFR material, retrieving the corresponding Federal Register document, cross checking these 2 documents, and screening for any additional information. To research a possible error, begin by retrieving the CFR content in question. Go to and select Retrieve by Citation. In the list retrieved, select Collections,
Code of Federal Regulations. For Year, select Most Recent. Select the Title that you want to research. Then enter the Part number and Section number. Select Retrieve Document and a corresponding PDF will now appear. Identify the error within the document. In this case we see that Section 2.48 has two paragraphs numbered 30. That's gonna be a problem. Next, we'll retrieve the corresponding Federal Register document. Federal Register citations indicate when a
Part was added or revised. They appear at the end of the Section, or at the beginning of the Part the Section is in, just under the table of contents. In this case we will start with 78 FR 40938. That's page 40,938 of the Federal Register, published on July 9, 2013. Once you know what FR you need, go to FDsys, Retrieve by Citation, and search Collections: Federal Register, inserting the corresponding volume and page number for the most recent FR document affecting the Section. Then click Retrieve Document. A corresponding PDF version of the text will now appear. FR documents contain both information about a Rule and the actual Rule language. Scroll to the section of the FR Rule labeled List of Subjects. This is where the actual Rule
language begins. Within that section, search for any instruction that affects your content. If none exists, continue on to the next previously published FR document until you find a match. In this instance we see that this FR document doesn't address paragraph 30, so we'll move on to the next previously published FR document until we find one that does. We find that 75 FR 43380, published on July 23, 2010, also does not apply. We move further back to 74 FR 3407, published on January 21, 2009, and find that it does effect paragraph 30, where it directed the editors to revise paragraphs (a)(2)(iv) and (a)(30). Now we can continue to step 3, the cross check. Compare the agency instruction to the CFR material. The CFR should reflect the instruction
in the FR. To cross check its application, you can pull up the annual edition of the
CFR as it existed before the publication date of your FR document. We see that paragraph 30 from the old edition reads the same as the first paragraph 30 we have in the current edition. In this case it looks pretty clear that the editor added the new paragraph 30 under the existing one instead of replacing the old one with the new one. This leads us to believe that the old paragraph 30 needs to be removed. To confirm we are right, though, we need to move on to step 4: screening for additional information. To assure all FR instructions affecting the
content in question have been accounted for, check the List of CFR Sections Affected. Retrieve the most recent Annual Edition available for the applicable Title in FDsys from the CFR Annual Edition page. Go to In the column to the right,
select Code of Federal Regulations. For Choose Year, select the most recent available. Select Go. Scroll to the appropriate Title and to the right of that Title, select PDF. Now you have the most recent official book downloaded to your computer. Scroll to the very end of the book, to the section titled List of CFR Sections Affected. Search this section for the exact CFR address of the content in question. For our example, we are only interested in FR documents that published after January 21, 2009. We can also ignore documents
78 FR 40938 and 75 FR 43380, because we already know they don't affect paragraph 30. Each book contains documentation for edits made within the previous 5 years. For edits occurring more than 5 years ago, return to the previous screen and select year 2008 or earlier. We don't see any other FR documents that could impact our content, so let's move on. Next, check the List of Sections Affected,
or LSA, for any changes the agency may have made since the book's last codification date. Go to From the left column select Browse Government Publications. Now, from the right column select List of CFR Sections Affected. Select Monthly LSA. Select the most
recent year. Select the most recent month. Scroll to the appropriate Title number and, in the column to the right, select the corresponding PDF. Search this document for the exact CFR citation of the content in question. If additional corresponding FR documents are found, repeat step 3. If not, continue on. Finally, check the latest edition of the Federal Register for any changes the agency may have
made since the last monthly LSA. Go to From the right column, select Federal Register. Select the most recent year, month, and day. At this point, a list of agencies
will populate. To the right of this list, select PDF. The complete issue of that day's
FR will now appear. Scroll to the very bottom of the issue, to the section titled Reader Aids. Search the column to the right, titled CFR Parts Affected, for the CFR Title and Part number of the content in question. If additional corresponding FR documents are found, repeat step 3. If not, your research is complete. For our example, there were no references to 7 CFR 2.48 in either document. So we can say with certainty that the first paragraph 30 does need to be removed. If you do find content in the CFR that deviates from what's published in the Federal Register, please contact the CFR editors at [email protected] Provide the CFR citation, reference to the
FR document, and a brief description of the error. If what's published in the CFR does not deviate from what's published in the Federal Register, but you still believe a change needs to be made, you may wish to bring up your concerns
with the agency that issued the Regulation. You can determine the agency responsible for the Regulation by referencing the applicable FR document. The agency's name appears at
the very beginning of the Rule in bold and capitalized type. A directory of federal agencies and their contact information is available on [silent]


  1. …this lady is very very very smart…need I say! Thank you.

  2. Isn't it true e-cfr+unofficial ecfr?

  3. Is the CFR laws that each agency abides by? Is this where citizens can know if agencies go violate laws?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *