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Field Searches. Fields on Westlaw. Most documents on Westlaw are divided into segments called fields. Field searching adds even more precision to a Terms and Connectors search.

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Fields on westlaw
Fields on Westlaw

  • Most documents on Westlaw are divided into segments called fields.

  • Field searching adds even more precision to a Terms and Connectors search.

  • The names and number of fields that a document contains depends on the type of database. A case law database has different fields than a statute law database. For example, there is no judge field in a statutory database.

Fields on westlaw1
Fields on Westlaw

  • Most fields are entered in the search as a two-letter abbreviation. For example, the abbreviation for the title field in case law is ti.

  • The abbreviation of the field is immediately (no space) followed by parentheses.

  • A Terms and Connectors search within a field is constructed in the same way as a as search that is not restricted to a specific field except that the terms are entered within the parentheses.

    di( “probable cause” /p stop! /p car automobile vehicle)


  • Knowing which fields a database contains and what information is in each field can greatly increase the efficiency of your search.

  • The terms must be in the specified field(s) or the document will not be retrieved.

  • The following slide will show some of the fields in a case law database and their abbreviations that would be used in a search.

Case Law Fields

on Westlaw

You can access a Fields

list from the Search page on



This is the template that

appears when you access the Fields list. You can

use this template or just enter the search directly into the search

text box. These are just some of the fields ina case law database.

Case law title field
Case Law Title Field

  • You need to retrieve a case. All you know is that one party’s name is Bush and the other party’s name is Gore.

  • ti(Bush & Gore) requires that both the terms Bush and Gore appear in the portion of the document that contains the names of the parties, the title field.

  • The & connector can be used here because the field is so small the two terms will necessarily be close together. The search would be equally effective if /s or /p had been used as the connector.

Case law synopsis and digest fields
Case Law Synopsis and Digest Fields

  • A combination of fields can be searched. Just put a comma between the fields.

  • The sy,di combination field is a favorite of law students because it searches both the synopsis and the digest fields in one search and insures that in the cases retrieved the issue is central to the case.

    sy,di(wrongful! /5 terminat! discharg!)

    sy,di(“product liability” /p danger! defect! /p air-bag)

Case Law Synopsis and Digest Fields

  • The headnote and synopsis fields are prepared by West attorney-editors

    • using consistent and current legal terminology

    • using descriptive terms instead of proper names

    • adding alternative terms for ambiguous, regional or outdated words

  • Examples:

    • Tenant is used instead of Mr. Blake or plaintiff

    • Aspirin is used instead of Bufferin or Tylenol

    • Intoxicated is used instead of tipsy

      A headnote and synopsis field search retrieves many online reporter cases that you would otherwise miss.

Case Law Fields on Westlaw

Title Field

Synopsis Field

Topic Field

Headnote Field

The Digest Fieldis a combination of the Topic and Headnote fields.

A case law field only on westlaw words and phrases field
A Case Law Field Only on WestlawWords and Phrases Field

  • The Words and Phrases (wp) field is used when you need to find a judicial definition of a word or phrase in the body of the case. No documents are retrieved that discuss the word or phrase without defining it.

  • You will first see the definition in a headnote. Jump from the headnote to the body of the case to see the court’s exact wording of the definition.

    wp(“constructive discharge”)

The date restriction field
The Date Restriction Field

  • The date restriction (da) field is available in databases in which the documents are dated, such as case law, administrative decisions, and journals and law review databases.

  • You can require documents after a date, before a date, between two dates or on a specific date.

  • The added date (ad) field is used only to determine when documents were added to Westlaw.


Multiple field searching in case law
Multiple Field Searching in Case Law

  • What if you only know that one party’s name is Smith, that Smith’s attorney’s name is Brown and that the case was decided after 1990?

  • ti(smith) & at(brown) & da(aft 1990) is the focused search that would retrieve the case (assuming you are in the correct database).

  • Notice the & connectors between the fields. This is an example of one of the times the & connector must be used. Without the & connectors, your search would retrieve documents with Smith in the title field orBrown in the attorney field or all documents decided after 1990.

Statutory law fields
Statutory Law Fields

There are not as many fields in a statutory

law database. Most of these fields are not available in

case law databases.

Statutory law fields the citation prelim and caption fields
Statutory Law Fields: the Citation, Prelim and Caption Fields

  • The citation (ci) field contains the statute’s citation.

    ci(42 +3 198*)

    will retrieve the following sections in Title 42: 198 and 1980 to 1989.

  • pr,ca is a useful combination of fields in a statutory database. The pr, or prelim, field is the statute’s heading; the ca, or caption, field contains the specific title of that statute.

    pr,ca(“title 11” & exemption)

Statutory Fields on Westlaw Fields

Citation Field

Caption Field

Prelim Field

Caption Field

Statutory law fields the substantive document field
Statutory Law Fields: The Substantive Document Field Fields

  • The substantive document (sd) field contains all the fields that are not enhanced by West Group attorney-editors (the “official” segments of the statute).

  • The sd field includes the prelim, citation, caption, text, and credit fields.

  • Annotations are not included in the sd field.

Combining unrestricted searches and field searches
Combining Unrestricted Searches and Field Searches Fields

  • Many searches are a combination of unrestricted or free-text searches (words can be found anywhere in the document) and field searches.

    “dying declaration” /p time hour minute second day /p admiss! inadmissible admit! & ju(jackson)

  • This search retrieves cases addressing a dying declaration and how long it can be asserted before death and be admissible according to Judge Jackson’s previous decisions.

Your turn

Fields Fields

Your Turn

You need cases since 1980 that discuss the Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning underground storage tanks for which Judge Clifford wrote the appellate decision. Use the Maine Case (ME-CS) database and construct an effective search using both free text searching and field searching.

Hint: A case might use the phrase underground gasoline tank or underground oil tank or underground storage tank.