Thursday, February 20, 2014

Using Database Identifiers in WestlawNext

Westlaw assigns a unique identifier to each database. If you use Westlaw Classic, you're used to seeing them when you run searches. You can use these databases in WestlawNext, too. Instead of drilling down through the menus, if you know a database identifier, just type it, followed by a colon. For example, fl-st-ann: would get you directly to the annotated Florida statutes.

Screen snip showing database identifier (in this case,
JLR for Journals & Law Reviews) in Westlaw Classic

Westlaw has standardized many database identifiers by using state postal codes. For example, the database with Washington cases is WA-CS, and the databases for Idaho, Montana, and Florida cases are ID-CS, MT-CS, and FL-CS. The database for annotated Washington statutes is WA-ST-ANN and the databases for Idaho, Montana, and Florida annotated statutes are ID-ST-ANN, MT-ST-ANN, and FL-ST-ANN.

You can save another step by typing your search after the colon. For example,  fl-st-ann: "stand your ground" takes you to the Florida statutes database and searches for "stand your ground." If you know you want to run an advanced search (i.e., looking for the exact phrase), you can enter fl-st-ann: adv: "stand your ground".

WestlawNext screen snips showing how fl-st-ann:adv:"stand your ground"
leads directly to a search in Florida Statutes & Court Rules
Now, how do you find database identifiers? 

You have options!

1. Use the free Westlaw database directory on the web
Go to You'll see you can browse, drilling down through the various categories of material or you can search.

Screen snip of
I found that drilling down through the directory worked better than searching. For example, searching for "washington state" briefs retrieved 100 databases, none of which seemed to have briefs from Washington appellate courts.

Screen snip of showing search for "washington state" briefs

But it was pretty straightforward to follow the hierarchy from U.S. State Materials, to Other U.S. States, to Washington, to Briefs. One can choose Washington Supreme Court Briefs (WA-SCT-BRIEFS), Washington Court of Appeals Briefs (WA-APP-BRIEF) or a combined database (WA-BRIEF-ALL).

Screen snip of showing path to find Washington briefs databases

2. Use Westlaw Classic
If you use both Westlaw Classic and WestlawNext, you can search for the databases in Westlaw Classic, then use the identifier in WestlawNext.

a. On the left side of the screen when you're viewing the directory, type the source you want in the "Search for a database" box. You'll get results that are close to or include that source. For example, searching for "seattle times" turns up Washington Papers (WANP) as well as Seattle Times (STLTI).

Screen snips showing "Search for a database" and results

b. Search the Westlaw database list (whose database identifier is IDEN). This searches the database names and their descriptions. You can use either Natural Language or Terms and Connectors searching. 

For example, a Terms and Connectors search for "supreme court" /3 "oral argument" quickly leads to a description of SCT-ORALARG.

Screen snip with description of SCT-ORALARG


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