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Administrative Law Research: Immigration Concentration Class Site

Case Finding Methods

There are a variety of ways to find cases. In order to find all the relevant cases on your topic, it is a good idea to try all or most of the different case finding methods. Finding cases is a circular process so you will find many of the same cases through different methods.

West Key Number System Overview

As Mr. West developed his National Reporter System, thousands of cases from all jurisdictions were available for the first time. He realized that he needed to develop a method to allow users to find cases on a specific legal topic.  

In 1848, he developed a classification system called the West Digest System to assist researchers with finding case law on a specific legal issue. On Westlaw, it is now called the West Key Number System.

Classification System

He decided that all legal issues fell into one of 414+ broad topics. Each topic is divided into numerous subtopics, each of which is assigned an individual Key Number. There are over 90,000 Key Numbers!

One of the topics is Aliens, Immigration and Citizenship. 

Using a Key Number to Find Cases on a Specific Topic

The point of this huge and elaborate classification system is to allow a researcher to find cases on a specific topic. 

Finding a Relevant Key Number

You would like to find a relevant Key Number to use to find cases about knowledge asylum and force abortion/sterilization. 

Aliens, Immigration, and Citizenship is one is one of the 414+ topics in the West Key Number System. You can click through the outline to look at increasingly specific key numbers. The most specific one on the is 541 - Forced abortion or coerced sterilization.

Using a Relevant Key Number to Find Cases on the Same Topic

Once you find a relevant Key Number, you can click on it to find cases on the same narrow topic in your desired jurisdiction.

One Good Case on Westlaw

Once you find ONE GOOD CASE, you can use it to find additional cases on your specific legal issue.

Three ways! 

  1. Find cases cited as authority within your one good case (go backward in time!)
  2. Use KeyCite Citing References to find cases that cite your one good case (go forward in time!)
  3. Use West Key Numbers from your one good case to find cases on the same specific legal issue


You have found one good Ninth Circuit case about asylum and force abortion and you want to use it to find more cases.