Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Law Library

Using Westlaw Patron Access

How To Find Westlaw Patron Access from the Law Library Home Page

  • Start from the Law Library home page.
  • Under Legal Research, Recommended Resources, click on the drop-down menu.
  • Click on Westlaw Patron Access.
  • Read through the Westlaw User Agreement and select I Agree at the bottom right. Click Go.

Finding a Document by Citation or Party Name

If you know the citation to a case, statute, law review, or treatise, or the name of a party in a case, you can use the Find feature. Click on Find which is located on the navigation bar at the top of the screen.

  1. To retrieve a document, enter the citation and click on Go.
  2. If looking for a case by party name, click on Find a Case by Party Name. Enter the party name(s). If you know the jurisdiction (where the case was decided), limit to the desired jurisdiction. Click on Go.

Selecting Your Database

There are several databases available for you to conduct your legal research. However, there are some databases that do not fall within our subscription plan, which if selected will show the message: Your request to access _____ cannot be processed because use of this database is not authorized under your subscription agreement.

To select a database:

  • Click on Directory on the navigation bar at the top of the screen
  • Several subject areas appear. Follow the links marked with a yellow folder icon yellow folder icon to see lists of databases in that subject area. Links to individual databases are marked with an information icon information icon. Click on the blue database link to go to the search screen for that database. Click on the information icon for information about the database.
  • To see a list of databases by state, click on WestlawPRO Primary Law Library, then State Materials, then Materials Organized by State & U.S. Jurisdictions, and pick your state.
  • For an alternative view, click on All Databases under “Westlaw Directory” on the left side of the screen.

Starting Your Search

Use search terms that relate to the important issues and facts involved in your research. Do not use a common word such as “law.” Think of unique terms or phrases that describe your topic.


Selecting Your Search Method

There are two types of searches that can be done:

  1. Terms and Connectors
  2. Natural Language

Terms and Connectors

You can join search terms by using connectors and expanders, restrict your search so that search terms only appear in specified fields, and limit by date.

Using Connectors Between Words & Phrases: Connectors specify the relationship between two terms. The chart below provides the connector, symbol used, and what it retrieves.

Connector Symbol Retrieves



All the terms must appear in the same document or field.



At least one of the connected terms must be in the document.


“ ”

Search terms appear in the same order as in the quotation marks.

Grammatical Connectors


Search terms appear in the same sentence.


Search terms appear in the same paragraph.


First term precedes the second term in the same sentence.


First term precedes the second term in the same paragraph.

Numerical Connectors


Search terms must appear within n words of each other. (n is a number).


First search term must precede the second term with n words of each other.

But Not


Documents do not contain the term or terms following the % symbol (Caution: this may eliminate relevant documents).

There are additional ways to expand or narrow your terms as indicated below:

Root Expander (!)
retrieves words with variant endings. When an exclamation point (!) is placed at the end of a root term, you retrieve all possible endings. For example, obey! yields obeyed, obeying, etc.

Universal Character (*) represents one character. It can be placed within or at the end of a term. When you place an asterisk within a term, it requires that a character appear in that position. For example, wom*n retrieves woman or women . When an asterisk is placed at the end of a term, it specifies the maximum length of that term. For example, educat*** retrieves educate, educated, and educating, but not educational.

Turning Off Plurals: Westlaw automatically retrieves plurals when you enter the singular form of a term. You can turn off plurals of a particular term by placing the # symbol in front of the term. To retrieve damage but not damages, type #damage.

Field Restrictions: You can limit your search by restricting your terms to specified fields. Field restrictions vary according to the type of source being used. Below are examples of some field restrictions that can be used.

  • Cases

    • DI — Digest
    • DN — Docket Number
    • CI — Citation Field
  • Statutes

    • CA — Caption
    • HN — Historical Notes
    • CI — Citation
  • Law Reviews

    • JN — journal
    • TI — Title
    • AU — Author

Date Restrictions: There are pre-set date choices which range from Today through Unrestricted (all available dates). The default is Unrestricted. Alternatively, you can customize the dates using the After, Before, Between, Specific, and Last options.

Think about the purpose of your research before using a date restriction. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Interested in only the very latest materials on a particular subject? Use Most recent 30 days through Year to date.
  • Interested in materials during a particular time period? Use the one of custom date options.
  • Doing a general search on a topic? Choose Unrestricted.

Natural Language Searching

Natural Language searching allows a researcher to use plain language when looking for materials on a legal topic. The search screen default is Terms and Connectors. To search using natural language, click on the Natural Language tab. In the text box, type in your search request as if you were writing a sentence (e.g., Do noncustodial grandparents have visitation rights?)

You can further customize your Natural Language search by using the thesaurus, control concepts, date restrictions and other applicable restrictions.


Viewing Your Results

  • Viewing the text of a document: If your search was successful, you will see a result list. Click once on the document you want to read to display its text.
  • Locating Your Search Terms: To locate where your search terms appear within the document, click on the right arrow (right arrow) button beside the word Term at the bottom of the screen.
  • Viewing other documents in the Result List: To view the next or previous document in your result list, click on the right arrow (right arrow ) button beside the phrase “Doc x of x,” or click on the left arrow (left arrow) to view the previous document.
  • Returning to the Result List: To return to your list of results, click on the Result List link located towards the top right corner of the screen.


is a citation research service. When you enter the citation to a case, statute, administrative decision, or regulation, KeyCite, using colored flags and letters, will indicate whether that document is still good law and also provide a list of citing references.

red-flag Red Flag—indicates that a case or administrative decision is no longer good law for at least one of its points. For statutes and regulations, it indicates that it has been amended, repealed etc.

yellow-flag Yellow Flagwarns that the case, statute, regulation or administrative decision has received some negative treatment.

blue-H Blue H—indicates that a case or administrative decision has received some history.

green-C Green C—means that a case or administrative decision has citing references but no direct or indirect negative history.

stars Star Ratings—indicates how much the citing case discusses the cited case.

quotes Quotation Marks—indicates that a citing case directly quotes the cited case or administrative decision.


There are two ways to KeyCite a document:

  • If you know the citation, click on the KeyCite link on the navigation bar at the top of the screen. Enter your citation and click on Go.
  • If you are in the full-text of a document, and see one of the symbols indicated above, you can KeyCite the document. Click on the symbol to go to the KeyCite report.

Printing Your Results

Printing in the Law Library requires the creation of a print account.  Please see the Printing and Copying Page for instructions on setting up a print account and printer locations.

You have two printing options:

  1. Quick Print. This link is located towards the top right corner of the screen. This will print what is currently on the screen (i.e. result list, full-text of case, etc.)
  2. Print. Located beside Quick Print, this provides more options. The four printing options are 1) Result List; 2) Selected Documents; 3) All Documents; or 4) Current Document. Select the desired option. Click on Send Request .

After you select Quick Print or Print, a print box will appear on the screen. Click on OK to print the whole document: if you only want some of the document, then change the page range and click OK .

Enter the User ID from the back of your Print Anywhere card when prompted to do so. 

Downloading Your Results:

  • Make sure the text of the document you want to download is on the screen. Click on Print in the upper right corner of the page. Select PDF as your format.
  • Your document will open in PDF. On the toolbar at the top of the PDF document, click the Save icon PDF save icon.
  • Follow the downloading instructions for the computer you are using.

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