Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
UC Logo
Libraries | Ask the Libraries

Advanced Legal Research: Researching Statutes, 50-State Surveys, Uniform Laws & Municipal Codes

Overview

A code is a subject arrangement of the laws of a jurisdiction. There are official and unofficial codes. A code may be annotated (containing editorial enhancements to help with research or interpretation) or unannotated. The advantages of using a code for research include:

  1. the fact that codes collate original laws with later amendments,
  2. they bring all laws on the same subject together, and
  3. they eliminate repealed, superseded, or expired laws.

In addition to the statutes, many codes contain constitutions and court rules.

Finding a Code by Citation

Retrieving  a statute by legal citation is the easiest and fastest way to get the specific case to which the citation refers.

Example of a United States Code citation:

42 (title) U.S.C. (Code abbreviation) Section 1983 (2006)

Suppose our citation was for 42 U.S.C.§ 1983 and I wanted to find this statute in print.

  1. I would first find the United States Code, United States Code Annotated, or United States Code Service in the UC Law Library print collection.
  2. Then I would find the volume or volumes containing title 42. 
  3. Next I would look for the section 1983 within the appropriate volume.

To find this statute online:

  • Westlaw:  type the 42 U.S.C.A. 1983 in the search box at the top of the screen.
  • Lexis:  type the 42 U.S.C.S. 1983 in the search box at the top of the screen.

A word about retrieving state statutes by citation online:

  • Lexis and Westlaw can be picky about the format for state statute citations and that format does not necessarily follow Bluebook form. Your best bet is to begin typing the statute citation.
  • In Westlaw, putting the state postal abbreviation in front of your section will usually work:  OH St 3503.06.

Code Organization

The structure and organization of statutory codes will vary by jurisdiction. 

Federal

The United States Code, the subject arrangement of federal statutes, is arranged  by subject  into 54 subject titles (title 53 is in reserve and does not yet have a subject assigned to it), with chapter and section subdivisions.  Of the 54 titles, the following titles have been enacted into positive (statutory) law: 1, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 17, 18, 23, 28, 31, 32, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 44, 46, 49, 51, and 54. When a title of the Code is enacted into positive law, the text of the title becomes legal evidence of the law. Titles that have not been enacted into positive law are only prima facie evidence of the law. In that case, the Statutes at Large still govern.

When looking at a code section, you will see the text of the section, then historical notes, the Statutes at Large citation, and references to related code sections.

State

In Ohio, the statutes are broadly organized by titles (there are 33) and then further broken down by articles, chapters, and sections.  For more information on Ohio codes, see the Ohio Legal Research Guide

State Codes with Subjects:

Some states, such as California, Maryland, New York, and Texas, use subject words for their broader organization. If you look in Table 1 of the Bluebook or Appendix 1 of ALWD under one of those jurisdictions, they will give you the subject break downs. You actually include those subjects in your citation.

Videos -- Structure & Organization of Codes

Where Codes Are Published

Federal

Official (unannotated)

United States Code (U.S.C.)

  • The USC is published every six years with cumulative bound supplements issued in between editions. Publication typically runs several years behind.

Unofficial (annotated)

State

Publication of state codes will vary. The Law Library's state codes are located on the 4th floor with the other state materials at call numbers KFA through KFZ. Note that most of the print codes are no longer being updated.

Ohio

Ohio does not publish an official version of the Ohio Revised Code, instead unofficial versions of the code are published. 

Citation Format for Codes

Bluebook

Rule 12 of The Bluebook (21st ed. 2020) covers the citation of statutes.

Elements

  • Name and original section number as it appears in the session laws (only if the statute is commonly cited that way)
  • Title, Chapter, or Volume (see  T. 1, 1.3)
  • Code (cite to the official code if at all possible)
  • Section
  • Publisher, editor or compiler (unless the code is published by or under the supervision of government officials)
  • Year (optional for federal codes) (on spine or title page if available, otherwise year on title page, and if not that, the copyright year)
  • Supplements (see Rule 3.1 to cite any material appearing in supplements)

Examples:

42 U.S.C.§ 1983.

8 U.S.C. §§ 1187-89.

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (West 2007).

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (LexisNexis 2009).

Citing to Online Codes -- Rule 12.5 and 18.3:

The Bluebook requires you to cite to the official code if it is available. If citing to a statute that is available on a commercial online service such as Lexis or Westlaw, provide the following:

  • Title, Chapter, or Volume (see  T. 1)
  • Code (cite to the official code if at all possible)
  • Section
  • Publisher, editor or compiler
  • Name of the database
  • Currency of the database

Examples:

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (Lexis, Lexis Advance current with legis. passed by the 132d General Assemb. and filed with the Sec. of State through file 178 (HB 532)).

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (West, Westlaw through File 42 of the 132d General Assemb. (2017-2018) and 2017 State Issue 1).

ALWD

Rule 14 of the ALWD Citation Manual (7th ed.) covers the citations to codes.

Elements

A citation to the Federal statutes should include the following:

  • Title number (if applicable)
  • Code Abbreviation (cite to official code where possible - see Appendix 1)
  • Section
  • Publisher (if unofficial)
  • Date

Examples

42 U.S.C.§ 1983 (2006).

8 U.S.C. §§ 1187-89 (2006 & Supp. IV 2011).

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (West 2007).

Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 3503.06 (LexisNexis 2009).

Online Codes

  • Use regular citation form but add the name of the database provider and currency information

CALI Lesson on Codifcation of Statutes

CALI LogoAvailable to Law Students only (see a reference librarian if you do not have a CALI activation code).

University of Cincinnati Libraries

PO Box 210033 Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0033

Phone: 513-556-1424

Contact Us | Staff Directory

University of Cincinnati

Alerts | Clery and HEOA Notice | Notice of Non-Discrimination | eAccessibility Concern | Privacy Statement | Copyright Information

© 2021 University of Cincinnati