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Torts Law: More Detailed Research

A brief guide for first year students learning Torts.

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Case Law

Historically, tort law was very case law driven. As a result, if you are researching more in-depth tort law questions, you will have to trawl through case law.

As with anything in the law, nomenclature is very important. Get the correct legal terminology, and your search will be appreciably easier.

(i) Entry citations from secondary sources

(ii) Digests

(iii) Blind searching

See other tables.

Entry Citations from Secondary Resources

As with any legal research, possessing or finding an entry citation is a great way to further your research. Torts is no exception, especially as torts is often case law driven. What do we mean by an "entry citation?" It means a legal primary or secondary document that is partly or wholly on point, with which we can then use to find other better or similiar materials. For example, you find a case kind of on point. You can then use a citator (Shepard's or KeyCite) to see what other cases, law reviews, statutes, etc, cite to your original case in some fashion. We can do this with statutes, regulations, or secondary materials.


Digests help lawyers find cases on point with their own factual situation. A digest, as you should know, is a systemized collection of case law summaries organized by legal topics. The topics are also called "topic and key numbers." Each digest system has a descriptive word index which refers to the main topical arranged volumes within the same collection. In the main volumes under the topics, are summaries of cases discussing that topic(s)/sub-topic(s), organized by court and year.

For torts cases, you can either use the index or go to the volume on torts and peruse the table of contents.

Blind Searching

Often, the hardest way to search is in a database. The narrower the database, the better. So always remember your jurisdiction and topic. In the case of torts, the large legal on-line systems (WL, LX & Bloomberg), have the ability to narrow down by these factors. Cost is a consideration too - so think about whether a print digest is better, or think of limiting factors and keywords before going on-line. Legal terminology is also important in torts, with many idosyncratic terms, i.e. res ipsa loquitor. This is where using a Digest index is helpful, as they direct you to the correct term. Blind searching can only return results as good as your search terms.