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50-State Surveys of Laws & Regulations: Statutory Finding Tools


There are several useful statutory finding tools that you can use when researching statutes.  These tools can save you time and money.  Some of them may be familiar to you such as indexes and table of contents.  Others may be new to you such as the popular names table.

Finding a Statute by Popular Name

Popular Names


Sometimes a statute will have an official or popular name.  If there is a well-known name for the law you are interested in, consult the "Popular Names Table" in one of the code versions. This will provide you with the public law number and the Statutes at Large citation for the original act, as well as providing references to where the act has been codified.

An example of a popular name is the "USA PATRIOT Act."  The official name is "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001."  Quite a mouthful!   Another example of an act with a name is the Americans with Disabilities Act.  You can see below that this has been codified at 42 U.S.C. § 12101 and following.



Where to Find the Popular Names Table



The "Popular Names Table" may be a separate volume or be a section within the last volume of the general index. 


  • Westlaw contains popular names tables for all of its statutes. 
  • Lexis Advance does not provide a popular names table for any of its statutes. 

Statutory Indexes

All print codes and some online codes will contain separate subject indexes.  An index is a great finding tool.  Topics are listed alphabetically and will refer you to the codified statutory sections pertaining to that topic.  

  • Cross References
    • If you see an index entry for a topic that gives you another term and then states generally this index, it is telling you to search for that other term in the index.
  • et seq
    • Latin for "and the following ones."  In other words, multiple sections -- it is just giving you the first one.

Online Codes

  • Westlaw contains indexes for all of its statutes.
  • Lexis Advance does not provide any indexes for its statutes.

Parallel Reference Tables

Each code includes volumes that contain tables for parallel references. Locate the session law citation or public law number you are interested in on the table, and it will provide you with the title and section numbers where the statute has been codified.

Codes will also contain tables that relate older state codifications to the current code.