Difference Between Bibliography And Sources Of Law

You can browse and search for case law in the same way you search for primary sources, by subject, with a citation, or using keywords.  Note, however that the body of case law is so large that a general search in any legal database will likely provide an overwhelming number of results and could waste a significant amount of research time.  Instead, you should use a secondary source to identify at least one relevant case, which you can build on using the "one-good-case method."

The One-Good-Case Method

Not only can one relevant case lead you to other relevant cases in footnotes or annotations, legal databases include mechanisms for linking sources by topic, known as headnotes (Lexis) and key numbers (Westlaw).


In Lexis, headnotes show the key legal points of a case. Each headnote is written by a Lexis editor, drawing directly from the language of the court. 

"More Like This Headnote" allows you to focus on the terms of art or key words in a particular headnote. This feature uses those terms and keywords to find more cases with similar headnotes or with closely matching language in the opinions. That list of cases collected by a common headnote is known as a "digest of cases."

"Retrieve All Headnotes" shows you all case headnotes written for a specific topics and relevant cases. 

Key Numbers

In Westlaw, each legal issue in a case is identified and summarized in headnote form and then assigned a topic and key number in the West Key Number System.

Clicking on a particular key number will bring you to a digest of cases in the same jurisdiction that are all connected by that common topic.  You can change the jurisdiction of the digest to find additional cases.

You can also search key numbers directly to find relevant cases by topic and then select additional filters, such as jurisdiction or date.


Each major legal database has its own citator, and it's important to be comfortable with all three: BCite (Bloomberg), Keycite (Westlaw), and Shepard's (Lexis).  

Citators serve three purposes: (1) validation, (2) updating, and (3) additional research

by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Did  you know that there’s no such thing as a bibliography in APA Style? It’s a fact! APA Style uses text citations and a reference list, rather than footnotes and a bibliography, to document sources.

A reference list and a bibliography look a lot alike: They’re both composed of entries arranged alphabetically by author, for example, and they include the same basic information. The difference lies not so much in how they look as in what they contain.

A bibliography usually contains all the works cited in a paper, but it may also include other works that the author consulted, even if they are not mentioned in the text. Some bibliographies contain only the sources that the author feels are most significant or useful to readers.

In APA Style, however, each reference cited in text must appear in the reference list, and each entry in the reference list must be cited in text. If you cite only three sources in your paper, your reference list will be very short—even if you had to read 50 sources to find those three gems! (Hopefully, that hard work will pay off on your next assignment.)

The APA Style Experts are often asked to provide the “official APA-approved format” for annotated bibliographies (i.e., bibliographies that contain the author’s comments on each source). As you may have guessed, there isn’t one; APA Style doesn’t use bibliographies of any sort. In addition, though, the reference list in APA Style contains only the information that is necessary to help the reader uniquely identify and access each source. That’s why there is no format for an annotated bibliography in the Publication Manual.

0 thoughts on “Difference Between Bibliography And Sources Of Law”


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *