Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Research Tip - Using the Table of Contents on LexisNexis

Statutory codes, such as the USC and the ILCS, are arranged hierarchically by topic. When we say that information is arranged hierarchically, we mean that it is organized from the most general topic to the most specific, with related topics grouped closely together and subtopics appearing directly after the topics to which they relate. The visual representation of a hierarchical arrangement is a detailed outline.

Usually researchers retrieve a statutory section by using a known citation, going through the index, or searching the full text of the statutory code. Even if these methods seem to retrieve exactly what you want, however, you should not stop there. Statutory sections are part of a hierarchical scheme of laws; they rarely stand alone. There may be definitions in another section that control how your section will be interpreted. There may be another section about enforcement of your section. Or you may find another section that is more specifically applicable to your research project.

Because of the hierarchical arrangement of statutory codes, you can see where your section fits into the statutory scheme and find related sections by reviewing the table of contents. The table of contents method works on LexisNexis and Westlaw, in print, and with most statutory codes on the web. This research tip is about using the Table of Contents on LexisNexis.

LexisNexis has a link from each statutory section to the Table of Contents for the statutory code in which the section appears. Clicking on the "View: TOC" link in the upper left corner takes you to a Table of Contents that has been expanded to show the sections around your section. Look above and below your section for related sections.

LexisNexis Table of Contents

For example, if you had found 42 U.S.C. § 12182, Prohibition of discrimination by public accommodations, which is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act, LexisNexis would take you to an expanded outline showing all of the sections under Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities. Read § 12181, Definitions, § 12186, Regulations, and § 12188 Enforcement. Scroll up a little further and you will also see § 12101, Congressional Findings and Purposes, and § 12102, Definitions, which apply to all the subchapters in Chapter 126, Equal Opportunity for Individuals with Disabilities.

LexisNexis also provides links from each statute to specific points in the statutory hierarchy. Near the top of the screen on which your section is displayed, you will see a string of links to different points in the TOC. The first link will be to the statutory code in which you are doing your research and the last link will be to the smallest subdivision of the code in which your section appears, with intermediate subdivisions in the middle. For example, at the top of 42 U.S.C. § 12182, the following links appear:

LexisNexis roll-over links

The full text of the last link is "Public Accommodations and Services Operated by Private Entities." If you point your mouse at the middle link, " / . . . / ", a roll-over menu appears giving you options to go to intermediate points:

LexisNexis roll-over links

LexisNexis also allows you to search just the table of contents of each statutory code. In fact, when you select any U.S. state or federal statutory code, the default search is "Table of Contents (TOC) only." You can search the "Full-text of source documents" by clicking on the radio button to its left. You can also limit your TOC or full-text search to certain titles, chapters or other subdivisions of the code by clicking in the appropriate check boxes within the Table of Contents. Click on the Advanced link to run an Advanced TOC or full-text Search.

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