WESTLAW NEXT Tip of the Week: Searching With WestSearch and Descriptive Terms

August 22, 2011

Tip of the WeekA major challenge of issue-based legal research is that most legal search engines are very literal. Literal search engines – such as Natural Language on westlaw.com – rely heavily on the actual words you use to search. This makes it necessary for you to write a search query that includes every possible variation of how your issue could be described.

Enter WestSearch on WestlawNext®.

Descriptive Terms for Relevant Results

WestSearch – a new and highly innovative algorithm created at West – dramatically improves the quality and ranking of search results. When you are ready to research, simply type your legal issue using simple descriptive terms and WestSearch will:

WestSearch Screenshot

Under the Hood of WestSearch

Let’s take a look at the key components of the WestSearch algorithm:

West Key Number SystemWest Key Number System – This is the foundation of WestSearch. Because thousands of West attorney-editors have read, summarized and classified the law by topic for over 100 years, WestSearch can identify the topics of law best represented by the terms of your search and return highly relevant documents for those topics – even if the documents don’t have the terms you put into the search box.

KeyCiteKeyCite – KeyCite maps the citation network among all federal and state cases in West’s® National Reporter System® (as well as over 1 million unpublished cases), federal and state statutes, and thousands of secondary source publications. WestSearch analyzes the rich connections among documents, making your results more inclusive and bringing the most relevant documents to the top of the list.

West Secondary SourcesWest Secondary Sources – With thousands of practice guides, legal encyclopedias, and authoritative treatises, WestSearch can find primary law that is heavily discussed in each jurisdiction and detect similar phrases that apply to your concepts.


 Leverage these assetsBy leveraging these assets, WestSearch can identify legal issues, follow connections between documents, and even return highly relevant documents that don’t contain your exact search terms. For example, if two documents share the same Key Number and cite to the same authority, WestSearch can connect those two documents, even if they do not share the same language. This is the same process that attorneys perform on westlaw.com today – researching Key Numbers and investigating KeyCite for citing references – WestSearch just automates the process so you can find the right answers in a matter of minutes instead of hours.


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