Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
UC Logo
Libraries | Ask the Libraries

Researching Case Law

This guide is designed to be an introduction to cases and case law research.

Parts of a Case

Parts of a Case

When looking at a print case in a West reporter, you will first see parallel citations to other reporters where that case has been published. In our example, there is a citation to 197 Ohio App. 3d 145 and 2011-Ohhio-5916. Next you have the party names. In our example, they are Thomas v. Cohr, Inc. Underneath the party names you have the docket number. In our example, the docket number is C-110094. After the docket number you will see the court. Here is is the Court of Appeals of Ohio, First District, Hamilton County. The decision date is next. Our example case was decided on November 18, 2011. After the decision date, you will have the synopsis which is written by West editors. The synopsis contains the procedural history of the case, a brief background statement, and the holding. West reporters follow the synopsis with headnotes. The headnotes provide summaries of the issues of the case and can serve as a table of contents for the case.

Parts of a Case Continued

Parts of a Case Part 2

Each headnote is assigned a number. In this example, we are looking at headnote number 6. In addition to the number, each headnote is assigned topic and key numbers. In this example, headnote number 6 has been assigned the topic of damages and within damages, the key number 57.21. Once you go past the headnotes, you will see the lawyers arguing the case and then the judge writing the opinion. Only after all of this do you get to the actual opinion itself.

Parts of a Case Continued

Parts of a Case Part 3

In our example opinion, we are looking at the case within the N.E.2d reporter. Page 919 is the page number in N.E.2d. If we wanted to see the page number for the Ohio App. 3d reporter, we would look for an upside-down T where we can see page 154 in the Ohio App. 3d reporter. The place in the opinion where the issue summarized by headnote number 6 is actually discussed is indicated by the 6 in brackets.

CALI Lesson on the Anatomy of a Case

CALI LogoAvailable to Law Students only (see a reference librarian if you do not have a CALI activation code).

University of Cincinnati Libraries

PO Box 210033 Cincinnati, Ohio 45221-0033

Phone: 513-556-1424

Contact Us | Staff Directory

University of Cincinnati

Alerts | Clery and HEOA Notice | Notice of Non-Discrimination | eAccessibility Concern | Privacy Statement | Copyright Information

© 2019 University of Cincinnati