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Social Welfare Policy and Services I (19:910:504)

A research guide for SWPS1 assignments

Citing Government Documents

This page shows how to cite some of the common pieces of legislation -- those you will use in you course assignments -- in APA format. For a comprehensive overview of citing government document, visit these resources:

Common Symbols and Abbreviations

Common Symbols and Abbreviations

§ = section, refers to a particular part of a document, usually in legal materials

To create the §:

  • Use the Character Map on a PC 
  • Go to "Edit" then "Emoji and Symbols" and search for "section" on Mac.

ch. = Chapter

Cong. = Congress, usually refers to a specific session of congress, i.e. 101st Cong. (See Dates of the Session of Congress)

CRS = Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library Congress that conducts research on policy for the US Congress

Gen. Ct. = General Court, usually refers to a state level congressional session

H.R. or H. = House of Representatives

P.L. = Public Law

Rep. or Rep. No. = Report or report number

S. or Sen. = Senate

Sess. = Session

Stat. = Statute, usually refers to a specific law or section of a larger law

U.S.C. = United States Code

Law Numbering Note

1. Bills introduced in every Congress are given sequential numbers, e.g., H.R. 1, H.R. 2, S. 1, S. 2, etc.

2. It is also important to know the number of the Congress, e.g., 117th.   See Dates of Sessions of the US Congress. The session of congress is often included in the bill number (e.g. 117 H.R. 110) 

3. Once a bill becomes law, it gets a public law number in its first printing as a slip law.  The public law number has two parts-the first part is the number of the Congress, and the second part indicates it was the nth law passed by that Congress, e.g., Public Law 111-148. Public law is often abbreviated PL in citations. 

4. The public law is also cited to the Statutes at Large, a second printing of the slip laws, arranged chronologically in bound volumes.  A Statutes at Large citation , e.g., 120 Stat. 648, includes the volume and page number on which a law can be found.

5. The public law finally becomes part of the United States Code.  This is arranged by subject, so provisions in the public law can be codified in several different titles (subjects.)

The Timeline of Printing a Federal Law a diagram of the different printings of a federal law

Citing Federal Legislation

Federal Public Law 

On a reference or works cited:

Type of Law Format Example
Full Law Name of the Law/Act, Public Law Number, Statute Number. (Date).  Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, P.L. 103-322, 108 Stat. 1796. (1994).
Specific Act within a Larger Law Name of the Act + "of" + Date, Public Law Number, Statute Number.  Violence Against Women Act of 1994, P.L. 103-322, 108 Stat. 1902.
As U.S. Code Name of the Act, United States Code Number § Section Number (Date).  Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. § 13701 (1994).

In-text Citations:

(Name of the Act [Acronym], Date). After the first citation of this act, you would cite successive citations as (Acronym, Date)

(Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act [VCCLEA], 1994) successive citations as (VCCLEA, 1994)

Unenacted Federal Bill

On a reference or works cited:

Format Example

Name of the Bill, Bill Number, Session of Congress. (Date).


Bill Number, Session of Congress. (Date).

 Violence Against Women Act, H.R. 1502, 102nd Cong. (1991).


H.R. 1502, 102nd Cong. (1991).

In-text Citations:

(Name of the Act [Acronym], Date). After the first citation of this act, you would cite successive citations as (Acronym, Date) 


(Bill Number, Date)

(Violence Against Women Act [VAWA], 1991), successive citations as (VAWA, 1991)


(H.R. 1502, 1991)


Formatting CRS Reports

Reference with Author:

Sacco, L. (2015, May 26).  Violence Against Women Act: Overview, legislation, and federal funding (CRS Report No. R42499).

In-text with Author:

(Sacco, 2015) or

Sacco (2015) stated that...

Reference without Author:

Congressional Research Service. (2015, May 26). Violence Against Women Act: Overview, legislation, and federal funding (CRS Report No. R42499).

In-text without Author:

(Congressional Research Service, 2015) or

Congressional Research Service (2015) stated that....

Citing State Legislation

State law citation varies from state-to-state. Here are some resources to help you cite state law: 

Contact your librarian if you need more assistance with state citations 

State Law

Reference List or Works Cited

Name of Law. Source § Section number (Year). URL OR (Database)

Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act. N.J. Stat. Ann. § 24:6I-1 (2019). (West)

NOTE: In this case, the "Ann." means "annotated" 

In-Text Citation

(Title Number Source § Section number)

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 24:6I-1)


Enacted Bills

Reference List or Works Cited

Bill Number. Session of Congress. (State Abbrev. Year) (enacted). URL

H. 199, 189th Gen. Ct., Sess. (Mass. 2015) (enacted).

In-Text Citation

(Bill Number, Year)

(H. 199, 2015) 

NOTE: Unenacted bills are the same citation, just remove the word "enacted" from the citation

Content Attribution

This page is based on the libguide for APA Style 7th Edition: Citing Government Documents at Boston College Libraries.


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