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How do I search Westlaw?

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Accessing Westlaw

  • You can access Westlaw directly or through the law section of the Database List.  If you're off-campus, you will be prompted to login with your myPVCC username and password.
  • When searching Westlaw, keep in mind it is not for background information. If you need background information, use a different database, such as Gale eBooks.
  • The first screen you will see when you access Westlaw is below.

screenshot of Westlaw's  main screen

1. This is the search box. You can run a simple search by entering terms, or you can click on "Advanced" (located to the right of the search box) to run a guided Boolean search.

2. This is the database you're searching. Westlaw defaults to All Federal. Click on "All Federal" to change your search to something else.

3. These are the different information areas and databases you can search. Click on the different tabs to see what's there. Clicking on these links(for example, Statutes & Court Rules) will search that specific database.


Simple searches

  • To run a simple search, enter a term and click the search icon (magnifying glass). 

  • To run a phrase search, put the phrase in quotation marks ("res ipsa loquitur")


Remember that the system defaults to "All Federal," so change this if you're searching a specific database.

Boolean search

Use Boolean operators for a more targeted search.

  • AND (&) -- To run an AND search with Westlaw, put an ampersand (&) between terms.
    • narcotics & warrant


  • OR (space) - To run an OR search with Westlaw, put a space between synonyms.
    • lawyer attorney counsel


Westlaw's list of connectors

Operator Example Description
"" "res ipsa loquitur" Putting words in quotation marks will search for the specific phrase
! object! Finds words with different endings, such as object, objective, objection, etc.
* wom*n Finds words with different spellings; for example, woman, women
/p protest /p rights The search terms must appear in the same paragraph
+p women +p workforce The first term must precede the second term in the same paragraph
/s design /s defect The search terms must appear in the same sentence
+s attorney +s fee The first search term must precede the second term in the same sentence
/n personal /3 rights Search terms must appear within n terms of each other. N is a number from 1 to 255
+n capital +3 gain The first search term must precede the second term by n terms. N is a number from 1 to 255
AND (&) contempt & subpoena Retrieves documents that contain the terms anywhere in the document
OR (space) teen teenager adolescent juvenile Finds documents with all the listed terms
BUT NOT (%) death % penalty Excludes the term after the %
atleastx atleast6 licensure The search term must appear in the results at least x number of times

Citation search

You can search Westlaw using case or journal article citations. The citations need to be in the Bluebook style.

Example: Case citation

Screenshot of case citation search


Example: Law journal article citation

Screenshot of journal article citation search


Westlaw's KeyCite system

Westlaw's KeyCite is a citator, that is, a tool that allows a researcher to verify whether a case, statute, regulation, or administrative decision is still good law, determine if a patent or trademark is still valid, and find citing references to support a legal argument.

When you pull up a case in Westlaw, you may see a status flag next to the title. See the example below.


screenshot of a keycite status flag next to a case title

The flag indicates there are negative treatments affecting this case. This means that since the case was originally decided, there have been decisions that negatively impact the case. You can see the main negative treatment listed, including what it is, what case contains that treatment, and the date it was decided.  You can also see more negative treatments by clicking on the tab labeled "Negative Treatment."


Here are the status flags you may see next to a case.

Westlaw status flags


Here is what each status flag means.

Westlaw status flags meanings


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