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Basic Legal Research: A Guide

Resources and search tips for finding legal scholarship, court cases, statutes, regulations, and legislative histories.

What is a legislative history?

A legislative history is a collection of documents that are produced by Congress as a bill goes through the legislative process of becoming a public law. Legislative histories can help you determine the intent, meaning and purpose of a particular law. The types of documents found in a legislative history will include the following:

  • Bills (original and later versions)
  • House and Senate reports
  • Committee hearings
  • Congressional debates
  • Commitee prints
  • Presidential statements
  • Committee and Conference reports
 

This page focuses primarily on legislative documents and resources available electronically through the Howard-Tilton Library's subscription databases, or freely available through the U.S. government. For print resources or more indepth legislative assistance,  please contact the Tulane Law Library at 504.865.5952.

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CRS Reports

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress. CRS experts prepare reports to assist members of Congress throughout the legislative process, providing background information and data on public policy issues.

Legislative Document Types

Common Document Types   Description
Bills, Amendments, Resolutions

Proposed legislation, which may take many forms

Debates

Official proceedings and debates are published daily in the Congressional Record

Hearings

Committees may decide to publish publicly held hearings, two months to two years after they are held

Committee Prints & Conference Reports

Findings and recommendations of committees, reported back to the House or Senate as a whole

Public Laws

Enacted legislation that affect the general population. For each session of  Congress, all acts and resolutions are published chronologically in the U.S. Statutes at Large. These are then codified and integrated by topic into the U.S. Code.