How to use 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 bar 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.

    English case law

    • From any page in LexisLibrary, click on Cases in the white bar at the top of the screen.
    • You can search for cases by party name, citation  (e.g. [1967] 1 WLR 716), or your topic of interest in the Free Text box. 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.
    • If you go back to the search screen by clicking edit search, you'll see an advanced search option on the right of the screen. Clicking this gives you some additional useful search boxes. Again, you do not need to fill in every box. 
    • In advanced search, you can search for a particular court, judge or date. You can also limit your results to cases that cite a particular piece of legislation.

    European case law

    • From any page in LexisLibrary, click on EU in the white bar 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. 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 search method searches a range of EU 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.
    • If you go back to the search screen by clicking edit search, you'll see an advanced search option on the right of the screen. Clicking this gives you some additional useful search boxes. Again, you do not need to fill in every box. 
    • From the advanced search page you can just tick the EU cases box, so you won't get every type of material in your results.

    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.
    • US 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-US international materials: You can use the international materials tab in the search box to find non-US 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

    • English cases are published in law reports and there are many different series of law reports - some databases only contain certain law report series. Sometimes you will need to try more than one database to find your case. Westlaw does contain a wide variety of cases but does not contain all case law. Have a look at the library's case law page to learn more about law reports and case law.
    • If you have a long or complicated case name, try just using a couple of keywords from your reference. Alternatively you can search for the citation e.g. [1981] 1 WLR 711
    • There are a huge amount of cases each year. Not all cases are reported. You can still use unreported cases in your work, but do ask yourself if there is a more appropriate, reported case that you could use instead. Look at the unreported cases paragraph in section 3.1.4. of the OSCOLA handbook for advice on referencing unreported cases.

    English legislation (Acts of parliament and statutory instruments)

    • From any page in Westlaw, click on Legislation in the white bar 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 you 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 you 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.
    • If you know the number of the section you want to look at you can put the name of the Act/SI in the title box and then the section number in the provision number box. Remember to select the appropriate description (e.g. section) from the drop-down provision number box You will then skip the screen with multiple results and can jump directly to that section. You can still go back to the arrangement of Act from any section, by clicking on the Act title in the left hand blue bar.

    Journals covering English and EU law

    • You can search for journal articles by title, author, or your topic of interest in the Free Text box. 
    • 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 choose more 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 may 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 Journal Titles tab on the search box on the library homepage.
    • You can get more information and advice about using journals and journal articles on the law journals page.

    Journals covering international 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. 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.
    • You'll see that the second tab on the search box is now 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. Book yourself on to a LexisLibrary and Westlaw: Advanced Searching workshop if you want to learn more about using these really powerful tips.

    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.

    There is a 'Help' link in the top right of every Westlaw page, which provides further details on searching and using Westlaw. 

     

    You may also want to print out the library's  PDF guide to using Westlaw for English law.

     

    If you are a GDL, LLB or LLM student you will be given training at the start of your course. The slides from this training will be available in Moodle for you to refer back to.

     

    The library runs Lexis and Westlaw workshops, at both a basic and advanced level. You can find out more and book a place. If you want to come to the advanced workshop without attending the basic one first, make sure you are comfortable with what the basic workshop covers as the second workshop builds on this. 

    You can get in touch with Kirsty Craven, the Westlaw student legal representative at any point. 

    And, of course, you  can always get in touch with Charlie Brampton, the Academic Liaison Librarian for Law. Charlie can see you individually or in small groups.