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Social Work: Public Policy


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What's a statute?

Laws are passed by legislative bodies and are often referred to as statutes. The federal laws, as well as state laws, are compiled by subject into codes.

Federal Statutes
  • If you know what title and section you want use "Jump to" and type the title and section numbers in the boxes
  • Ex: You know that "Low income housing assistance" is Title 42, Section 1437f. Type those numbers in the appropriate boxes to go directly to that section
  • If you do not know title and section numbers type your search in the search box
    • Keep your search short and simple
    • Use quotes for phrases. Ex:
      • "low income housing"
      • "elder abuse"
      • refugees
Massachusetts Statutes
Connecticut Statutes
Other States

For other states start with the official state website and search for "statutes",or, if you would like assistance, contact the Library

Finding Regulations

What's a regulation?

Legislatures often pass laws which require active enforcement. Agencies such as Department of Health and Human Services are given the power to create regulations to carry out the goal of the law. Federal regulations are compiled in the Code of Federal Regulations. Each state also has its own compilation of regulations.

Federal Regulations
  • If you know the Title number and part or section number you need:
    • Scroll down to the CFR Citation Locator and enter the numbers
    • Click on Find Citation
    • AFTER your results come up expand the Date section in the left column and choose the most recent time period
  • If you do not know a Title or section number
    • Type a word or phrase in the search box and search
    • Expand the Date section in the left column and choose the most recent time period
    • You may search within your results using the "modify  results" or "search within results" icons
    • Also watch the citation numbers (ex: 45 CFR 400). If the same numbers come up you can redo your search using hte CFR Citaton Locator (see above)
      • Ex: 45 CFR 400
        • 45 = Title number
        • 400 = Section number
Massachusetts Regulations
Connecticut Regulations

Federal and State Cases

What's a case?

For legal research "case" usually means the written decision/opinion of a judge or group of judges. These written decisions serve as authority or 'precedent', which is often binding and always important to subsequent decisions. The courts whose decisions are published are almost always appellate courts, not trial courts.

Many lower court decisions will not be available either in print or on the web; the record will only be available at the courthouse.

Click on the Case Law tab

If you have the citation to a case (ex: 347 U.S. 483):

  • Click on Fastcase Lookup
  • Type the citation into the FastCase Lookup box and click Get Citation

In all other cases click on Search Fastcase:

  • If you know the name of the case (ex: Brown v. Board of Education) type it in the "Case Name" box and click search
  • If you do not know a case name use the Text box to search for a word or phrase
    • NOTE: Keep in mind that this is a keyword search ( will search through every word in a case) so choose your words with care. 
  • If you want to find State case law choose the State from the "Restrict to State Court" drop-down list then click on Search
  • If you want Federal cases leave "Restrict to State Court" blank, then click on Search.
    • You will get a MIX of Federal and State cases
    • Go to the column on the right and expand Jurisdiction.
    • Choose one or more courts that include "U.S."  or "United States" in their name. These are the federal courts.
    • NOTE: Do not use Location for this search. Location is the physical location, not whether the case is "state" or "federal.


NOTE: HeinOnline has research guides to help you navigate the database.