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Westlaw: Picture Guide - Westlaw

A guide to using Westlaw for Law Students, faculty, and staff

Picture Guide - Westlaw

This is the homepage of Westlaw. It is customizable, but this is the standard layout of the homepage.

1. This section allows a user tp browse the various databases without using search terms. This can be useful in narrowing a search before using a search term.

2. This is the search bar.

3. This is where the shortcuts to the user folders and history tab is located.

4. This is where unsorted research documents will show up. Also, the user can set up favorites and custom pages.

5. This is the news feed and can be personalized to the user's tastes. It can also be removed.

This is the search bar. You can use plain language, citations, and "advanced terms and connectors" for your searches.

Let's start with an old standby of Law School, Pennoyer v. Neff. If you type in "neff' the search bar will show some possible suggestions, but our case isn't on the list so let's filter the possible search results.

This first major filter is the jurisdiction filter. It is found to the right of the search bar and allows you to narrow the search results to specific States or federal jurisdictions. We will choose "all federal" and "all state" for our search.

Once you have selected the jurisdictions that are applicable, and save the selection, hit the search button. This will bring up the search results for the search of "Neff" in all jurisdictions. Only the left of the results there is a filter that will filter the information by the type of sources listed and will show how many hits have the word "Neff" in them. WestlawNext has an overview section that Westlaw "thinks" would be relevant to your search. The case we want, Pennoyer v. Neff, is a Supreme Court case from 1877 and should show up in the overview section. If it does not you could narrow the jurisdiction to the U.S. Supreme court, which will shrink the applicable cases from 10,000 to around 216.

Before we look at the actual case document let's take a detour.

Click the case section (the left-side) on the search results. This will show only the case results for the search term, but it also allows you to narrow these specific search results even further. Look under the "View" section on the left and you should see a "narrow" section.

The narrow section allows for greater control over the search results. The Narrow section slight differs for each type of source; a secondary source will have a section to narrow by publication. For our example, you can narrow by additional search terms, jurisdiction, date, reported status, topic, etc. If you haven't found the 1877 Pennoyer v. Neff case, try using the narrow feature to find it.

Once you have found the original case click to enter the opinion.

This is the document the Supreme Court wrote in 1877, and reported at 95 U.S. 714 (if you type this into the search bar it will pull up this document directly). In addition to the reporter document, you can access a wealth of information on this case as well as how it has effected subsequent law, we will explore this information below.

One important piece of information on this page is the red flag next to the case name. This shows that Westlaw editors have found a subsequent case that overrules a portion, or all, of the holding in Pennoyer v. Neff. This is an example of Westlaw's KeyCite function and it allows you to keep up with current "good law," law that has not been overruled.

Now let’s explore the various information tabs in this case.

The "filings" tab give access to the documents the plaintiff and defendant submitted to the court. This section can range from a few documents to hundreds depending on the complexity of the case.

The "negative treatment" section is very important. It shows all of the cases that the Westlaw editors believe show some negative treatment when citing Pennoyer v. Neff. Westlaw will rank the treatment and mark the case that has the "most negative" treatment. Since our case has 94 negative citations, you need to be careful you do not cite Pennoyer v. Neff in a manner that has been overruled. This requires reading the subsequent cases to determine what has been negatively referenced.

If there is a case that complexly overrules our case it will show up in the "Direct Negative History" section.

The "History" tab gives a graphical representation of the procedural history of the case. This shows that there was one lower court case before our Supreme Court case.

The "Citing References" tab shows all sources, that Westlaw has found that cite our case in some fashion. This can be helpful to see how our case has been used by other sources since its adjudication. There are search filters to narrow the results to manageable numbers.

The "Table of Authorities" tab lets you see the cases that our case relied upon, and can be used to see if there is any potential "bad law" used as an authority in our case.

This has been a quick guide to searching a case on Westlaw. There are many tutorials on the lawschool.westlaw webpage that explore these systems in more depth. If you have further questions you can look to those guides or ask one of our librarians for more help.

The Browse box is an alternative method for searching. It allows you to narrow the search range before using the search bar. This is useful when you know a specific topic or have a location in mind before starting your search.

Let's jump to "Secondary Sources." This will allow you to narrow the term "secondary sources" by "type," "State," or "topic."

Click "Texas" in the state section.

This will bring up Texas related secondary sources. This is a sampling of the types of secondary sources available to search.

Let's look at Law Reviews & Journals.

This brings up a list of all Westlaw available Law Reviews & Journals in Texas. You can further narrow to a specific journal from this point, but we will start our search here. If you type "civil forfeiture" it will only search in the area we have specified (Secondary sources > Texas > Law Review & Journals).

Once you search for the term, civil forfeiture, the results in our specified area will populate and you can use the normal search methods of narrowing the results to bring down the 9,000+ search results to a more manageablenumber.

The Browse feature is useful for quickly narrowing your search results before you even begin the search. This allows for more efficient and targeted researching, if you have a research plan before diving into WestlawNext.

KeyCite is a tool used to quickly determine if a case is "good law" or "bad law." It is curated by Westlaw editors and uses graphical signals to notify the user to any potential issues. Always double check the cited cases. Your specific use might still be acceptable, even if part of the case has been given negative treatment.

Additional help can be found here.

This section will highlight some of the features of Westlaw that can aid in your research.

In a document on Westlaw, if you highlight some text a window will open with some options. You can save that text to your research folders (discussed below), add a note to that highlighted portion, color the text you highlighted, or copy that text with a citation sentence. For example:

"This action was brought by Neff against Pennoyer for the recovery of a tract of land situated in Multnomah County, Oregon. Pennoyer, in his answer, denied Neff's title and right to possession, and set up a title in him."

Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 24 L. Ed. 565 (1877).

The bolded text is the citation added by Westlaw. This is usually acceptable citation for a non-academic document but it needs to be formatted to conform to Bluebook rules for academic writing. Never assume the automatic citation is correct.

Another Useful area is located at the top of the document on the right-hand side.

These options, from left to right, let you do the following: (1) the "Go to" button lets you jump to specific pages in the document or specific headings in the document; (2) the alarm allows you to configure an e-mail "alert", which will inform you of any activity related to the document; (3) the magnifying glass lets you search for terms within the document; (4) the font button lets you change how the text is displayed; (5) the note button allows you to make annotations located at the top of the document; (6) the folder button lets you save the document to your research folders for later use; (7) the download button lets you choose a format for exporting the document, such as email or .pdf; and (8) the stretch icon makes the document go full screen.

These links are located on the top right corner of any page on Westlaw.

The folders section will give you quick access to any research folders you have made through a drop-down menu. If you click the folders button it will bring you to the research page which will be discussed below.

The History section preforms the same functions but will show your document history and allow you view what document you have looked at in previous searches. Clicking on the button will bring you to the history page, which allows you to apply filters to your research history and quickly find documents previously viewed.

This is the research page. This is where you can create folders to organize your research results. You are also able to share your research folders with others (this is found in the options section on the left hand side). This can be useful when working with others on a research project.

The history page displays your viewed documents and is helpful for retracing your research path. If there is a document you forgot to safe to a folder but would be helpful to your research, then the history section will let you find it quickly.