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Legal Research for Undergraduates

This guide provides information on legal research for UCLA undergraduates and non-law graduate students, faculty, and staff.

Researching Statutes and Regulations for Undergraduates

You can find statutes and regulations on several trustworthy free websites, summarized in the table below:

  U.S. Federal California


Laws passed by the U.S. Congress or state legislatures

Current: U.S. Legislature

Historical: GovInfo

Unofficial: CLII

Official: California legislature


Laws passed by agencies to add detail to statutes

Current: eCFR

Historical: GovInfo

Unofficial: CLII

Official: Westlaw (free access)

Unofficial: CLII

However, as long as you are an undergraduate, your best option for statutes and regulations is Nexis Uni:

Nexis Uni is best because it provides tools called annotations and a citator that allow you to locate cases interpreting your statute or regulation and identify any possible problems with your statute or regulation.

Annotations and Citators for Statutes and Regulations on Nexis Uni

What are annotations?

Annotations are brief notes that are prepared by database staff and located after the text of a statute or regulation. (Note: There are annotations for federal and state statutes and federal regulations but not for state regulations.) Annotations are divided into two categories:

  • Notes to Decisions or Case Notes summarize the holdings of cases interpreting the statute or regulation and provide links to each case.
  • Research References & Practice Aids list related sources other than cases, such as treatises and law review articles. 

What is a citator?

A citator is a tool that allows you to find sources that cite your statute or regulation and warns you of any negative treatment of your statute or regulation. Nexis Uni's citator is called Shepard's and using it is called Shepardizing.

  • Clicking Shepardize this document in the right hand sidebar will provide you with a list of all sources within the database that cite your statute or regulation. This list will be much longer than the curated list of annotations created by the database staff.
  • Shepardize also warns you if there is a problem with your statute by placing a red or yellow symbol in the right hand Shepard's sidebar:
    • Red symbols indicate a serious concern, such as a recently passed amendment or a case striking down all or part of the law. You should always click the red symbol and read carefully to see what is wrong.
    • Yellow symbols indicate a minor concern, such as proposed legislation. It's helpful to click the yellow symbol and read the proposed legislation to see if it affects you, but the statute is still good law.

Citing Statutes and Regulations

Statutes and regulations are organized by topic in books called codes. The table below shows the basic citation formats for federal and California statutes and regulations:

  Federal California


By legislatures

29 U.S.C. § 151

Cal. Unemp. Ins. Code § 621

Cal. Lab. Code § 2750.3


By agencies

29 C.F.R. § 103.1

Proper citation format:

Cal. Code Regs. tit. 8, § 621

Common abbreviation:

8 CCR § 621

There are three parts to a code citation:

  • The identification of the code, such as U.S.C. for statutes passed by the U.S. Congress and C.F.R. for regulations passed by federal agencies. In California, statutes passed by the California legislature are published in the California codes (Cal. __ Code) and regulations passed by California agencies are published in the California Code of Regulations (Cal. Code Regs. or CCR).
  • The title or subject. By definition codes are organized into different subjects, often called titles. For example, title 29 of both the USC and the CFR deal with labor. California is one of a few states that gives descriptive names to the subjects for its statues (e.g. Unemployment Insurance Code, Labor Code, Civil Code, Welfare and Institutions Code), instead of using numbers. Regulations still use numbers, such as title 8 for regulations on industrial relations.
  • The section, indicated by the section symbol: §. Section numbers start over in each title, so it’s very important to include both the title number AND the section number in your citation.