WestlawNext – Key Numbers for better searches

If you haven’t already subscribed to the Westlaw Insider’s Blog, I highly suggest you do. They post a lot of great insider tips for using WestlawNext to improve your online research and search results.

Last week’s tip promoted the use of Topics & Key Numbers to look for cases on similar issues. The Key Number system is something akin to the Dewey Decimal System for public libraries.

Under the West Key Number System®, every legal issue in a case published by West is identified and summarized in a headnote. Each headnote is then classified under one or more Topic and Key Numbers.

Once you have found a case that is on point with your research, you can then use the Topics and Key Numbers in this case to search for others on the same legal topic. The Westlaw Insider provides an easy 9-step guide to using the Topic and Key Numbers strategy:

  1. Find similar cases on a legal issue or point of law by clicking a Topic or Key Number in the classification hierarchy next to the headnote
  2. Find similar cases on a broad topic by clicking the Topic above the headnote
  3. Find cases that cite to your case for the legal issue or point of law in the headnote by clicking the link below the headnot
  4. View headnote results for your Key Number
  5. View summaries of the decisions
  6. Click the title to view the full text of the decision
  7. Navigate up or down the Topic hierarchy to retrieve additional headnote results
  8. Change the jurisdiction of your headnote results at any time
  9. Search within results to narrow the list of headnotes to those that contain specific terms
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