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How to Find a Preamble in the Federal Register

Do you often find yourself looking for the preamble of a final rule and don’t know where to start in the Federal Register? Keep reading to learn more in this short tip.

Video Tutorial

Watch this short video tutorial to learn how to locate a preamble in the Federal Register.

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 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.

How to Find a Preamble

Let’s say you 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, Code of Federal Regulation citation, docket number, or even agency. 

Search by Keyword

From the Federal Register Library, select Advanced Search. Next, select the Section Description drop-down menu and enter “final rule.” Then, enter a proximity search in the Full Text box including some keywords. Finally, enter 2006 into the Date range option. 

image of an advanced search in the Federal Register

You may need to read through the matching text pages from the results page to find the correct page. However, in this case, if we select the first result, 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, and more. 

image of a preamble within the Federal Register

Search by CFR Citation

If you have a CFR citation, you can also use Advanced Searching. We can use a similar strategy as before to search across the full text for the citation and the action.

image of an advanced search in the Federal Register using a CFR citation

With several hundred search results, we can refine the results to include documents only from 2006.  From here, we can either open each result or we can use the search within results option.

image of search results in the Federal Register Library allowing users to search within or refine their search

Next, add a keyword or term, such as “untreated citrus.” This narrows the results down to 1, which we see is the final rule.

image of how to search within results within HeinOnline

Search by Docket Number

A similar strategy can be used to find a docket number if you happen to have that handy. For this search let’s use the one-box search within the database. Enter the docket number into the search bar using quotations and select the Just Search for option.

image of a one-box search for a docket number in the Federal Register

From the results page, select Final Rule from the Action facet.

image of refining search results to a final rule

The first result is the final rule we are searching for.

PRO TIP: Agencies and actions are only indexed from 1995 to current date in the Federal Register.

Search by Agency Name

Finally, let’s search for the final rule using the agency name. Within the one-box search enter “animal and plant health inspection” AND citrus and select the Just Search for option. Next, refine results by the desired date. Choose Final Rule from the Action facet. And finally, select Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services” from the Agency facet. While we still have 5 results to sift through, we can see the third result is the final rule we are looking for.

search results in HeinOnline showing a search refined using multiple facets

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