WestlawNext – A Beginner’s Guide to Online Research (pt 2)

Last week, we discussed the general search bar, creating folders, and the history tracking tools of Westlaw Next. Today’s we’ll get into more detail regarding specific research methods for your queries.

Primary sources publish the law itself, i.e., the rules that local, state, and federal governments will enforce. Sources of primary law include ordinances, statutes, treaties, court decisions, court rules, administrative rules and regulations,
administrative agency decisions, and executive orders and decrees. Example: U.S. Statutes at Large.
Secondary sources of law are materials that help find the law, or explain or comment on it, but are not “the law itself.” Law review articles, treatises, legal encyclopedias, digests, and loose-leaf reporters are secondary sources. Example: Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS).

Searching Primary Sources

You can research primary sources (specific law & statutes) by searching directly in the folders marked:

For all three topics, you can search by content type, state, territories, and by topic.

Searching Secondary Sources

Go to the box below the search bar, and click on the All Content tab. From there, click on Secondary Sources to be taken to the Secondary Sources search bar. Once there, you can search by content type, by state, or by topic. Why search through the secondary source? First of all, what is a secondary source?

A primary source is the actual law. A secondary source is commentary on the law. Secondary legal resources can be legal encyclopedias, treatises, legal periodicals, and law reviews which are not binding like judicial opinions and statutes.  They are usually a well-written rephrasing of the law, and provide a good introduction to an unfamiliar research topic.

According to Westlaw, searching the secondary sources is a great starting point for research. Secondary sources can reveal major concepts, commonly used terms, and procedures used by practitioners in that area.

  • Secondary sources reference significant citations. These materials help you find citations to important case law and statutory authority, as well as citations to journal and law review articles.
  • Secondary sources are sometimes persuasive authority. Some secondary sources are so widely respected that they can be cited as persuasive authority in arguments to the court.

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