You may have noticed that Westlaw has added a new “Key Numbers” link at the top of its research screens. For now it’s yellow, so you can’t miss it. This new link gives easy access to some different ways you can subject search using the West Key Number system. (For prior posts on subject searching see here, here, and here.) Law librarians, including myself, have been asking for an easier way to get to the West Key Number system online and West has now provided it.
In addition to providing the Key Number Digest Outline and KeySearch, West released the new “Search for Key Numbers” function. This feature allows you to search the headnotes of the jurisdictions you select. If a headnote contains your search terms, you will be told which Topics and Key Numbers are associated with at least one headnote containing your search terms.
For example, imagine you are researching limited purpose public figures in California. After selecting California as your jurisdiction and typing in “limited purpose public figure” in the search box, you would be given a list of Topics and Key Numbers that contained the phrase “limited purpose public figure” in at least one headnote. By clicking on the Topic and Key Number you would then be taken to a list of headnotes which you could peruse just like you would in a print Digest.
While the initial search is based on a word search, it is used to direct you to a subject search, which can be very useful in your research.