Use Your Head(notes)!

Don’t forget to use headnotes to enhance your research. Headnotes are summaries of specific points of law that are covered in a case. They appear before the text of the opinion and can lead a researcher to additional cases that also discuss the given issue. In Westlaw, headnotes are part of the Key Number system, which classifies American law into broad topics and then divides those topics into narrower subtopics.

For example, a headnote on Westlaw from Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954):


LexisAdvance also features headnotes, which look a little different and may use different words for the legal topics. Lexis also offers the option to narrow the Shepard’s report by headnote. For example: a headnote on LexisAdvance from Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954):


Reference Librarian at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Library