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Researching Statutes: Glossary

This guide serves as an introduction to statutory research. To access the linked databases on Westlaw and Lexis, you should sign on to Westlaw and Lexis before clicking on the links in this guide.


  • Annotations: informational or descriptive notes about a legal issue.  Often, unofficial codes, like the United States Code Annotated or McKinneys Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated, provide descriptive notes and cases which help to interpret the meaning of a statute.
  • Chapter Law: a slip law published at the state level of government.  The number assigned to a chapter law often reflects its numerical place in the session laws and the legislative session when the law was passed. For example, 2008 N.Y. Laws 629 represents the 629th law passed in the 2008 legislative session.
  • Code: a compilation of the current laws in force in a given jurisdiction.  Codes are topically arranged.
  • Constitution: a document which creates the structure of government, defines a government's powers, and delineates the rights of the governed.
  • Popular Names Table: a table of statutes arranged by their popular name, i.e."No Child Left Behind" or "Clean Air Act".  The table lists the name of a statute along with its public law number, Statutes at Large citation, and its citation(s) in the United States Code.
  • Public Law: a law affecting society in general.  Each public law is assigned a number. The number reflects the Session of Congress in which the law was enacted and the number of the law. For example, PL 108-001 represents the first law passed in the 108th Congress.
  • Session Law: slip laws for a given legislative session are collected and published in order of enactment.
  • Statute: a law enacted by a legislative body
  • Statutes at Large: the title of the compiled session laws for each session of Congress. 
  • Title:  broad topical classifications by which the United States Code is arranged.  There are 53 titles in the United States Code.
  • United States Code: the official codification by subject matter of the laws of the United States.