Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

Digests, Headnotes, and Key Numbers Research Guide

This guide explains how to use West Digests, Headnotes, and Key Numbers to find case law.


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Helpful Hints

  • If you are researching many years of cases, you may have to use more than one digest to cover the desired time period. Older cases may be just as important as newer cases for some legal issues.
  • A useful feature of a digest is the lists of cases by name in tables found at the end of the digest. Using these name tables, you can find a case for which you have a name but no citation. Similarly, you can search cases using the names of the parties on Westlaw and Lexis.
  • A few digests are published by companies other than West. For example, there is a digest to accompany the Lawyers Edition Supreme Court reporter, which is published by Lexis. Although each of these companies has a unique classification system each with its own set of topics and subtopics, the basic system is similar to a West digest: find the appropriate topic and subtopic, then look under that combination to find descriptions of and citations to cases on point. Once you are comfortable using one digest system, you will find it easy to use others.