Skip to main content

How to Cite US Government Documents in MLA, APA Citation Style: Public Laws and Administrative Codes

Citing Government Documents in the Body of the Paper (Parenthetical Citations)

MLA Style -- References in the body of the paper

MLA documentation style uses brief parenthetical citations in the text that lead to the list of works cited. To cite government documents in parenthetical references, the MLA Handbook refers users to page 224, Section 6.4.5. Citing a Work by a Corporate Author.

Following MLA Style guidelines, the first element in a parenthetical reference (generally, the author) should correspond to the first element in the List of Works Cited.

If you are referencing a number of legislative documents, you will need to include enough information in the parenthetical reference to direct the reader to the correct reference in the List of Works Cited.

"When giving the name of a corporate author in parentheses, shorten terms that are commonly abbreviated...." (MLA Handbook 224) e.g., (U.S. Cong. House. Comm. on House Administration).

As you can see, even with the abbreviations, this makes for a fairly long reference and may make your paper more difficult to read. One alternative is to include the reference in a sentence.

"In 2001, the United States Congressional Committee on House Administration published their report on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 (House Rept. 131).  In the report, ..."

If you need to reference a number of legislative or legal documents throughout the body of your paper, you may wish to use another citation style, such as the Chicago numbered note style or APA style. You will need to choose the citation style that best fits your needs (and approved by your instructor) and use it consistently throughout the paper.

Laws and Adminstrative Codes

An act (e.g., law, public law, or statute)

"If you are citing an act in the works-cited list, state the name of the act, its Public Law number, its Statutes at Large* volume number and inclusive page numbers, the date it was enacted, and its medium of publication." (MLA Handbook, 205)

*Statutes at Large publishes "session laws" (in chronological order, by session of Congress)
See also: Administrative Codes, below.

National Voter Registration Act of 1993. Pub. L. 103-31. 107 Stat. 77-89. 20 May 1993. Hein Online: The Modern Link to Legal History. Web. 13 Jan. 2012.

--Pub. L. 103 - 31 is the public law number (103rd Congress, law number 31)
--107 Stat. 77-89 is volume 107 in the Statutes at Large (Stat.), pages 77-89.

Administrative Codes

The United States Code is the official reporter for laws (statutes) currently in force, arranged by subject.

  • In MLA style,"References to the United States Code, which is often abbreviated USC, begin with the title number....
  • Alphabetize a USC entry as if it began United States Code.
  • When including more than one reference to the code, list the entries in numerical order by title [title number] and, within titles, by section."

Reference to section within the United States Code:

2 USC. Sec 431. 2010. LexisNexis Academic. Web. 6 April 2012.

References to state administrative codes should follow the same basic pattern.

Web Accessibility Assistance