Guide to Westlaw

  • Connect to the database here. If prompted, log in with your Brookes ID and password.

    If you see a pop-up box asking to sign into or create an account, you can just press skip. There are advantages to having a MyWestlawUK account, but it isn't necessary.

    The homepage contains a single search box. This automatically searches everything in Westlaw, but you can untick the boxes to narrow down the resources searched. You will have greater control over your search, however, if you use the tabs along the top of the screen (cases, legislation etc.). 

    You can return to the homepage from anywhere in Westlaw by clicking on the Westlaw icon in the top left of the screen.

    Westlaw Insight is a great place to start researching a topic. It contains short thematic posts, in the style of Wikipedia, but they are written by legal experts. 

    • To use Insight, click on 'Insight' in the white toolbar at the top of the screen.
    • You can search for a topic, or browse within areas of law.

    Remember, Westlaw Insight is not a source you should be citing in your assignments. Rather, it is a springboard to help you find other, more scholarly material. This process works in two main ways:

    • There are links throughout Westlaw Insight posts to key cases and legislation elsewhere in Westlaw. This is a quick way to ascertain what the significant sources of law are in a particular field. 
    • Reading a Westlaw Insight post on an unfamiliar topic can be a great way to get an overview of the topic and, crucially, pick up some of the vocabulary used in it. You can then go on to use some of this vocabulary in the search boxes in the cases, legislation or journals tabs of Westlaw.

    1. U.K. case law

    Using the Basic Search

    • To search for cases, click on the 'Cases' option in the white toolbar at the top of the screen.
    • You can search for cases by party name, citation, or your topic of interest in the 'Free Text' box. Type your query into the appropriate box and click on 'Search'. You do not need to fill in every box.
    • The results list displays a list of results matching your query. Each result includes the case name, subject, keywords and lists the citations for where the case has been reported.
    • You can look at an abstract and the history of each case by clicking on the 'Case Analysis' link at the bottom of each result.
    • Westlaw can also provide you with the full text of law report. If a law report is available for the cases in your results list, a link to the law report's citation will be included at the bottom of each result.
    • You may also find a link to the 'Official Transcript' at the bottom of each result - this will give you the full text of the judgement made in that case.

    Using the Advanced Search

    • Click on the 'Cases' option in the white toolbar at the top of the screen. Then click on the 'Advanced Search' link to the right of the search boxes.
    • You can search for cases by party name, citation, or your topic of interest in the 'Free Text' box just as in the Basic Search. The Advanced Search gives you extra search options including legislation cited, a date range, or the name of the judge. Type your query into the appropriate box and click on 'Search'. You do not need to fill in every box.
    • The results list displays a list of results matching your query. Each result includes the case name, subject, keywords and lists the citations for where the case has been reported.
    • You can look at an abstract and the history of each case by clicking on the 'Case Analysis' link at the bottom of each result.
    • Westlaw can also provide you with the full text of law report. If a law report is available for the cases in your results list, a link to the law report's citation will be included at the bottom of each result.
    • You may also find a link to the 'Official Transcript' at the bottom of each result - this will give you the full text of the judgement made in that case.

    2. European case law

    Using the Basic Search

    • Click on the 'EU' option in the white toolbar at the top of the screen.
    • You can search for cases by party names, case name, case number, or your topic of interest in the 'Free Text' box. Type your query into the appropriate box and click on 'Search'. You do not need to fill in every box.
    • The results list displays a list of results matching your query. You may find legislation or notices are included in your search results (particularly if you are searching by subject). This is because this Basic Search searches a range of E.U. materials. Any cases included in your results list will have a 'European Union Cases' heading. Party names, dates, case number(s) and citation(s) will be listed under this heading.
    • You can look at a brief summary of your case and the full text judgement by clicking on the 'European Union Cases' link above the party names, etc.

    Using the Advanced Search

    • Click on the 'EU' option in the white toolbar at the top of the screen. Then click on the 'Advanced Search' link in the middle of the screen.
    • At the top of the screen is a list of  types of E.U. materials. Untick all the materials except 'EU Cases'.
    • You can search for cases by party names, case name, case number, subject, or your topic of interest in the 'Free Text' box. Type your query into the appropriate box and click on 'Search'. You do not need to fill in every box.
    • The results list displays a list of results matching your query. Each result will have the heading 'European Union Cases'. Party names, dates, case number(s) and citation(s) will be listed under this heading.
    • You can look at a brief summary of your case and the full text judgement by clicking on the 'European Union Cases' link above the party names, etc.
    • You can return to your results list by clicking on 'Search Results' in the breadcrumb trail at the top of the screen.

    3. International case law

    • Click on 'Services' and then 'International Materials' in the blue tool bar at the very top of the screen. A new window will open, named 'Westlaw Next'. You can now search for a range of materials, following the tips below.
    • U.S. case law: You can use the 'All content' tab in the search box. It defaults to searching for federal materials, but you can limit this to state materials by using the drop down box at the right of the search box. You do not need to fill in every box.
    • Non-U.S. international materials: You can use the 'international materials' tab in the search box to find non-U.S. case law. Alternatively you can click on 'case law' under content types and browse the list, or click on the jurisdiction you're interested in and browse that list.
    • Multi-national materials (e.g. International Court of Justice decisions): You can use the 'International materials index' on the right of the screen to browse a full list of all sources, including ICJ decisions.
    • NB. As you move through categories, the second tab on the search box changes name to show you what you're searching.

    Tips on searching for case law

    • UK cases are published in law reports and there are many different series of law reports - some databases only contain certain law report series. Therefore, you may need to try more than one database to find your case. Westlaw does not contain all case law.
    • Remember that the case reference you have may be indexed differently on a database. For example, consider the case of Bunge Corp. v Tradax Exprt S A. Many electronic resources will have used the full party name - Bunge Corporation v Tradax Export SA.
    • If you have a long or complicated case name, try just using the keywords from your reference. For instance, bunge v tradax. Alternatively you can search for the citation e.g. [1981] 1 WLR 711

    UK legislation (Acts of parliament and statutory instruments)

    • To search for legislation, click on the 'Legislation' option in the white toolbar at the top of the screen.
    • You can search by name, provision number (e.g. 2017/525), or your topic of interest in the 'Free Text' box. Type your query into the appropriate box and click on 'Search'.
    • The results list displays a list of results matching your query. Each result includes the name of the legislation and chapter number or SI number.
    • To look at the full text of an act, you first need to click on the 'Arrangement of Act' link underneath the name of the act your are interested in. You will be shown an overview of the act broken down by Part and Section number. Click on the section number you are interested in and the full text will be displayed. Alternatively, you can look at the whole act by selecting the PDF symbol link in the top right.
    • To look at the full text of an SI, you first need to click on the 'Arrangement of SI' link underneath the name of the SI your are interested in. You will be shown an overview of the SI broken down by article/regulation number. Click on the article/regulation number you are interested in and the full text will be displayed. Alternatively, you can look at the whole SI by selecting the PDF symbol link in the top right.

    UK journals

    • Legal Journals Index - the Legal Journals Index is one of the most useful ways of finding out what has been published in journals. It indexes many UK and European journals and provides brief summaries of articles with some full text links.
    • You can search for journal articles by title, author, or your topic of interest in the 'Free Text' box. Type your query into the appropriate box and click on 'Search'.
    • The results list displays a list of results matching your query. Each result includes the article title, citation, subject and keywords.
    • If you get too many results, try using the filters down the left hand side to narrow your results down. Alternatively, go back to the search screen and put in additional search terms or swap to precise search terms.
    • You can look at an abstract of each article by clicking on the 'Legal Journals Index Abstract' link at the bottom of each result.
    • Westlaw can also provide you with the full text of journals articles. If the full text is available for the articles in your results list, a 'Full Text Article' link will be included at the bottom of each result.
    • Remember, if the full text of an article isn't in Westlaw we may still have access to it through one of our other providers. Make a note of the reference, then search for the journal title in the 'e-journals by title' tab of the library search box.
    • You can get more information and advice about using journals and journal articles in this guide

    International Journals

    • Click on 'Services' and then 'International Materials' in the blue tool bar at the very top of the screen. A new window will open, named 'Westlaw Next'. If you click on 'World journals' on the right of this page, you can search across a range of journals from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and other countries.
    • The second tab on the search box will now be renamed 'world journals', allowing you to search all journals in Westlaw. Alternatively, select a country or region from the list first in order to narrow your search area.

    Do you get too many search results in Westlaw? Are the useful results surrounded by lots of irrelevant results? One solution might be to use some of these tools. In particular, the first three tips below will help make your search results more focused and precise. 

    Finding words near each other

    • Use /s to find words in the same sentence. For example, jury /s reform will find references where both words occur in the same sentence.
    • Use /p to find words in the same paragraph. For example, police /p review will find references where both words occur in the same paragraph.
    • Phrase searching: use quotation marks "". For example, "gig economy" will find references where the words occur as a phrase.

     

    Combining words

    • Use and to combine words and narrow down your search. For example, arbitration and medical will find references where both words occur in the same document.
    • Use or to broaden your search. This is useful if there are a number of similar words (synonyms) to describe the same idea. For example, arbitration or mediation will find references where either word occurs.
    • Use % to exclude a term. For instance, drugs % narcotics will find references which contain the word drugs but do not contain the word narcotics.

    Truncation

    • Use an exclamation mark ! at the end of a root of a word to retrieve all possible endings. For instance, employ! will find employ, employee, employer, employment.

    Universal character

    • The symbol * represents 1 character. For example, wom*n will retrieve woman or women. When you place the character at the end of a word, you specify the maximum length of the word. For instance, object*** retrieves object, objects, objected, objective, objection and objecting.

    A note about using connectors in Westlaw Next (i.e. the international materials section of Westlaw)

    If you put more than one word in a search box, Westlaw UK and Westlaw Next (international materials) will respond differently. Westlaw UK assumes all your words are linked with 'and' so will only retrieve results where all your words occur. In contrast, Westlaw Next assumes they are linked with 'or' so will retrieve results where at least one of your words occurs. To avoid this in Westlaw Next, use and between words if you want more precise results

    Print your results

    • Carry out your search.
    • To print current document:
      • Click on the envelope symbol in the top-right corner. Select 'Print' and then click on the 'Submit' button.
    • To print selected documents:
      • Click in the boxes to the left of the items you want to select.
      • Click on the envelope symbol in the top-right corner. Select 'Print' and then click on the 'Submit' button.

    Email your results

    • Carry out your search.
    • To email current document:
      • Click on the envelope symbol in the top-right corner. Select 'E-mail' and enter e-mail address. Click 'Send'.
    • To email selected documents:
      • Click in the boxes to the left of the items you want to select.
      • Click on the envelope symbol in the top-right corner. Select 'E-mail' and enter e-mail address. Click 'Send'.

    Save your results

    • Carry out your search.
    • To save current document:
      • Click on the envelope symbol in the top-right corner. Select 'Download'. Select your file format and click 'Submit'. Click 'Save file'.
    • To save selected documents:
      • Click in the boxes to the left of the items you want to select.
      • Click on the envelope symbol in the top-right corner. Select 'Download'. Select your file format and click 'Submit'. Click 'Save file'.

    The 'Help' link in the blue menu bar, top right of screen, provides further details on searching Westlaw.

    If you would like further help with Westlaw, you can contact Charlie Brampton, Academic Liaison Librarian for Law.