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Library Resources for Education

Federal and State Statutes: An Overview

Statutes are laws written and enacted by a government's legislative branch. Most statutes begin as bills. 

At the Federal level, each statute is published in three versions. The first version is called a slip law, which is the statute by itself on a single sheet or in pamphlet form. When a slip law is published, it is assigned a Public Law Number to identify it. The Public Law Number (e.g., Pub.L. No. 112-25) consists of two parts:  the first number represents the number of the Congress that passed the law, and the second number represents the chronological order in which the law was passed. In the above example, we have the 25th law passed by the 112th Congress.  Slip laws/Public Laws are available through the Library of Congress's site.

Next, the statute is published as a session law. Session laws are the slip laws bound chronologically by Congressional session.  (Each Congress lasts two years and is divided into two sessions). U.S. Statutes at Large is the official publication of Federal session laws.

It is often difficult to research a statute using the first two forms. In the final statute version, the code, laws are codified (placed in a subject arrangement). This final statute version is usually the most helpful.  The official subject codification (published by the government) is the United States Code (U.S.C.). U.S.C. is broken down into 53 subject Titles, with each Title covering a major subject area, such as Labor, Transportation, or Education.  Title 20 of the U.S.C. is Education.  This version of the U.S. Code includes a Popular Name Tool (to find, for example, the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001").  An alternate version is also available.  

Unofficial versions of the code, such as The United States Code Annotated, are commercially produced and provide additional notes, histories, and case references. 

Missouri law follows a similar pattern as that found in federal statutory law. Laws are first published in a chronological order and later codified into a subject arrangement.  Annotated versions of the state code offer additional notes. Missouri statutes are codified in Missouri Revised Statutes; the annotated version is Vernon's Annotated Missouri Statutes.

In addition to the sources listed below, you can find federal and state statutes in LexisNexis.  Refer to the explanation at the bottom of this page. 

Finding Federal and State Statutes in NexisUni

  • Click on Search by Subject or Topic (right above the red search box.)  
  • Under Legal, choose either State Statutes and Regulations or Federal Statutes and Regulations.  
  • You may then use Advanced Options, found right below the red search box, to further restrict your search.  For instance, if searching State Statutes and Regulations, you could limit to the statutory code of Missouri.  If searching Federal Statutes and Regulations, you could limit to the Annotated U.S. Code. 

Missouri Statutes

Federal Statutes

Slip Laws/Public Laws

When a bill is passed into law, it is published and numbered individually with the Congress number and a sequential number assigned in the order that it is passed.  If you know the public law number, you can locate the law.  P.L. 94-142 is the legal citation for the 142nd law passed by the 94th Congress, which was The Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975.  Slip laws are kept in the library’s collection until they are replaced by the permanent copy of the United States Statutes at Large.


Slip Laws/Public LawsLocation:  UCM Gov DocumentLocated at the end of the United States Statutes at Large volumes (AE2.111)


Thomas: Catalog of the Library of Congress. Contains full text of Public Laws from 1989 (101st Congress) to the present.  Laws are listed both by law number order and in bill number sequence.    


NexisUni: To search public laws, select U.S. Legal, then Federal Statutes, Codes & Regulations, then Public Laws.


Statutes/Session Laws

The chronological arrangement of the laws and regulations enacted during a session of Congress.  The Statute number is assigned to the law at the same time as the Public Law number.  A Statutes citation has the volume number, the abbreviation "Stat." for Statutes at Large, and the page number where the law begins.  For example, 88 Stat. 4 is the legal citation for the statute that begins on page 4 of volume 88 of the Statutes at Large.


United States Statutes at LargeLocation: UCM Gov Document Call Number: AE 2.111


Recent volumes available at:

United States Code (U.S.C.)

This publication is a subject compilation of current federal statutes of general and permanent application. The statutes are grouped into broad subject topics, or titles.  Title 20 is Education.  Each title is divided into numbered sections. An index to the set will guide the user to the correct title and section. A citation to the United States Code uses the title number (instead of a volume number); the abbreviation of the edition of the code, the section or part number, and the year of the edition of the code.  The symbol § is used to indicate a section or §§ to indicate a range of sections.  For example, 42 U.S.C. § 5101 (2000) is the citation to refer to title 42 of the United States Code, section number 5101.  2000 is the year of the most recent edition.


United States CodeLocation:  UCM Gov Document Call Number: Y 1.2/5



NexisUni : USCS is the United States Code published by a commercial printer. The Library subscribes to USCS as part of the NexisUni database. In NexisUni, select U.S. Legal, then Federal Statutes, Codes & Regulations, then Annotated U.S. Code.   

United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A)

A privately published annotated edition of the U.S. Code. It follows the same title and section arrangement but adds editorial notes, discussions, references to other books, and annotations of court decisions interpreting the statute.


United States Code Annotated: Location:  UCM Gov Document Call Number:  Ref KF62 W454

Bills and Bill Summaries:  Legislation is proposed in bills and resolutions.  You can find the full text of bills from 1989 (101st Congress) to the present in Thomas (Library of Congress catalog).   

Bill Summaries:  It is difficult to find copies of bills which were introduced prior to 1989 and never passed into law. In these cases, bill summaries are useful.  Bill summaries describe the basic features of bills, changes made to them during the legislative process, and information about the bill’s sponsors. Find bill summaries in Thomas.