Tip of the Week: How to Find a Preamble in the Federal Register

Federal Register, Searching, Tip of the Week, Tips and Tricks

Do you often find yourself looking for the preamble of a final rule and don’t know where to start in the Federal Register?  If you’re a frequent user of the Federal Register in HeinOnline, you likely know that the most effective search technique to use is keyword searching. This week’s tip explores how to do a keyword search across the Federal Register to find a preamble for a Final Rule.  Next week’s tip will then focus on how to use a MyHein account, to gather all the relevant legislation around that Final Rule into one place for reference during your research project.  That includes the proposed rule, any comments, the public law, and any commentary from law journals.  So be sure to check back for part II of this tip.

Check out the Tip of the Day via our YouTube video, or continue on below the video to read a full-text version of this tip.


What is a preamble?

The preamble of a final rule usually contains information pertaining to the background of the rulemaking process leading up to the final rule.  It may include things like the statement of the requirements in law, citations to the proposed rule and other any other historic rulemaking, a discussion and/or analysis of the comments received by the public, and/or the justifications for the agency’s final decision.  Not all preambles contain the same information, and the depth and breadth of information can vary from rule to rule and agency to agency.

Follow Along With This Example

We want to find the preamble of a final rule issued by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, regarding the importation of untreated citrus from Mexico.  We know the rule was published in the Federal Register in 2006.  There are several ways to search for the final rule, including by keyword, CFR citation, docket number, or even agency.  We’ll look at searching by each of these to find the preamble for the final rule.  There are two key points to note before we begin searching.  First, preambles are published at the beginning of the final rule, and secondly if you’re searching for a “final rule” you want to specify that in the search in order to locate the beginning of a final rule in the text, where the preamble appears.

Example 1 – Searching by keyword

text:”action: final rule” AND text:”importation untreated citrus Mexico”~15

Select the Federal Register from the title listing and narrow the dates from 2006-2006.

In this search string, we are searching across the full text for “Action: Final Rule” as a phrase.  Why?  At the beginning of every rule published in the Federal Register the Action denotes what type of rule it is.  By inputting that into our search string, we are narrowing our search to full text pages that contain “Action: Final Rule”.  We then use a proximity search for our keywords, importation untreated citrus Mexico.

This search gives us one result.  When clicking view matching text pages, you have to read through the excerpts to locate the page where the text of the Final Rule relating to the importation of untreated citrus in Mexico is published.  Page 33172 shows the Action: Final Rule and our keywords accompanied by the CFR citation and the docket number, which are also two key pieces of information included at the beginning of a final rule.

So if we click on the link to page 33172, we will find our preamble which includes a summary of the requirements in the law, the effective date, background information including a citation to the proposed rule, the CFR subpart, another final rule that addressed other public comments, a discussion of the comments received, and other key points related to the agency’s decision.  The amendatory instructions and the text of the new part is then stated on page 33177.


Alternatively to conducting a key word search, we could search by a CFR citation, docket number, or the agency name.  Here’s what the search strings would look like for these other scenarios.


Example 2 – CFR Citation

Our CFR citation is 7 CFR 319.56.  At the beginning of a final rule the CFR part is referenced using this format [Title] CFR Part [Part Number], in this case it would look like 7 CFR Part 319, so we can search across the full text for that citation.

text:”action:final rule” AND text:”7 CFR PART 319″

Select the Federal Register from the title listing and narrow the dates from 2006-2006.

This will return a much larger set of results, 34.  To narrow the results, we can use the “Search Within Results” option to add a keyword or two.

text:”untreated citrus”

This narrows our results to two and using view matching text pages, we can easily see that our first result, 71 Federal Register No. 110 (2006) is the one we want.

Example 3 – Docket No.

text: “Action: Final Rule” AND text: “Docket No. 03-048-3”

This returns 1 result.  Using view matching text pages, we’ll find a link to one page, page 33172, that includes Final Rule and the Docket No.

Example 4 – Add an Agency Name to the Search

text:”action:final rule” AND text:”agency:animal and plant health inspection”

This will also return a larger set of results, 114.  To narrow the results, we can use the “Search Within Results” option to add a keyword or two.

“untreated citrus”

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