Legal Research

Step One

  • Once you read the fact pattern, think of the areas of law or words that may be associated with that fact pattern
  •  Each digest set includes a descriptive word index  
  •  You can use the descriptive word index to find your digest topic, as well as the West Key Number. 

Step Two

  • Once you have the topic and key number, look in the appropriate volume of the digest set to find your section 
  • These sections will include a list of cases, as well as summaries of those cases, that relate directly to your digest topic. 
  • Once you find the appropriate case(s) for your topic, you can look up the cases in the appropriate regional or federal reporter.

Other Methods of Digest Research

  • If you already know your case name, but do not have a citation, you can use the Table of Cases index for your set of digests. 
  • If you know of a case for your legal issue, you can look at that case to get the case headnote which will direct you to the appropriate key number in the digests.
  • You may also find a citation to the digest in another research source, including legal encyclopedias, law journal articles, or A.L.R.

Digests and Westlaw Next

Westlaw Next includes a Key Number Service database to find case summaries on Westlaw Next. 

  •     Go to
  •     Click on Databases
  •     Click on W
  •     Scroll down to Westlaw Next Campus Pro i
  •     Select Tools
  •     Select West Key Number System. 
  •     You can either click on the broad heading and narrow down your search or type your topic name into the search bar on the right-hand side of the page.

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Linda Sizemore