Skip to Main Content

ENVS 3400 / PSCI 3060 Environmental Policy

This guide helps students doing research for the Policy Memo and Policy Recommendation assignment in ENVS 3400 / PSCI 3060 Environmental Policy.

Sources of law

Policies (laws) typically come from five types of sources:


  • Founding documents establishing how a government is set up
  • You are unlikely to use a constitution for this assignment.


  • Laws passed by the legislative branch of government (US: congress, Michigan: legislature)
  • Associated terms:
    • statutory
    • law code, United States Code
    • bill
    • Congress, House, Senate


  • Laws established by the executive branch of government (US: president and federal agencies, Michigan: governor and state agencies)
  • Associated terms:
    • administrative
    • agency
    • executive orders
    • Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Federal Register (Fed. Reg.)


  • Decisions by the judicial branch (courts)
  • Associated terms:
    • precedent
    • decision
    • opinion
    • v. or vs. between two names

Treaties and international agreements

  • Laws that two or more nations agree on together
  • Includes policy coming from the United Nations

Legal citations

What are these abbreviations?

You may come across citations in your readings that look like these examples:

  • 547 U.S. 715
  • 33 U.S.C. §1311
  • 33 CFR §328.2

Legal citations use a specialized format that uses lots of abbreviations. You don't have to understand these citations! But don't ignore them as they can lead you to important sources.

For federal law sources, just paste the citation into the search bar at to look it up. For state laws, start with a Google search of the citation. In general, whenever you don't understand a citation, try pasting it into Google or your favorite search engine.

Your librarian

Profile Photo
Micaela Carignano
1050 Waldo Library