How to Find a Specific Document within a Compiled Federal Legislative History

Searching, Tips and Tricks, U.S. Federal Legislative History

Are you looking for a specific document within a Federal Legislative History, such as a Committee Report, the text of a Public Law, or a Congressional Record document? This tip will walk you through locating a specific document by building a simple field search in HeinOnline’s U.S. Federal Legislative History Library. Once you’ve located the document through a field search, you can then use the “Search Within These Results” feature to find a specific section within that document.

HeinOnline has more than 1,000 full-text Legislative Histories in its U.S. Federal Legislative History Title Collection. You can browse the full-text Title Collection to determine if HeinOnline has a specific full-text Legislative History, or you can do a title search for it. If you do a title search and get no results, then try finding it in the Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database in HeinOnline. This database provides a list of relevant documents that pertain to the Legislation and it also includes links to the documents that are available in HeinOnline. For the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on searching the full-text histories.

It is important to understand what the section types are and how you can use them when searching in this collection. The section types are displayed on the Advanced Search options screen, below the input form, and appear like this:

The section types identify the various types of documents included in a Legislative History. This allows you to search for one specific document type, or across multiple types. For example, if you are looking for the text of Public Law 88-349, you would only want to check the Public Law box. If you are looking for House Report No. 1337, you would only want to check the House Reports box, and so on. The content within the titles in this collection has been tagged according to these “section types”.

To get a better understanding of this, let’s take a quick look at the table of contents for volume 1 of the “Internal Revenue Acts of the United States: The Revenue Act of 1954 with Legislative Histories and Congressional Documents“. You will notice that at the start of each bullet there is a –heading–. This heading displays the section type that has been assigned to that section of the document. Most section types are self explanatory from their name; contents are “Table of Contents”.

The area under the heading will contain the title of the section and/or a description. The title and description are meta-data fields that are fully searchable. The description is the part that appears in italics.

Let’s take a closer look at the first bullet that is circled in the picture. The section type in this case is House Report. The title is “Report of the Committee on Ways and Means”. The description is House Report No. 1337.

Now that we have a general understanding of where the section types come from and how you can use them in your search query, let’s take a look at an example.

We want to find the document titled “Corporate Distributions and Adjustments” within House Report No. 1337 from the Internal Revenue Code Legislative History set.

To build this search, we will open the Search this Title option. Enter House Report No. 1337 into the first search box, click on phrase, and select description from the drop down menu. Highlight the title “Internal Revenue Acts of the United States: The Revenue Act of 1954 with Legislative Histories” from the title listing. Uncheck all section types except House Reports; leaving House Reports as the only box that is selected. Click search.

This search will return 1 result with a link to House Report No. 1337 within this legislative history.

Now, we want to find the section titled “Corporate Distributions and Adjustments”. To do this, click on “Search Within These Results”. Then enter the following syntax into the search box:
text:”Corporate Distributions and Adjustments”

This will return one result with a link to the beginning of this section within House Report No. 1337.  Click on “View Matching Text Pages” and you will see exactly where this text can be viewed; you may then click on “Turn to page” to go directly to that page.

Tip: To conduct this search in one step, add “Corporate Distributions and Adjustments” as a second field in the initial search input (in the Field Search option), select phrase and text from the drop down menu. By locating the House Report document first, it allows you to search within that document or result for any word or phrase using the Search Within

Let’s try one more example. We want to find the House Debate from the Congressional Record in which Congressman Javits spoke of the pending tax bill as was relevant to the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. To do this search, select advanced search and then enter the Congressman’s last name into the first search box, Javits and select text from the drop down menu. In the second search box, we will input Debate House in quotation marks and select description from the drop down menu. Then highlight the Internal Revenue Acts of the United States title from the title listing, and check only the Congressional Record section type. Click search.

This search returns 1 result which is a direct link to the page in the Congressional Record document found within the compiled legislative history.  Once again, click on “View Matching Text Pages” to see and link to the relevant pages.

In closing, review the section types that are available to search across before starting your search. To search for a specific document type, only select that document type when inputting your search query.

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