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Case digests

Why use digests

Digests are best used after consulting commentary and performing some full text searches of the case law. They are particularly useful in the following circumstances:

  • To find cases with similar facts or dealing with a similar issue.
  • Where the topical sources for the subject area are poor.
  • To look for cases outside of the date range of the other resources reviewed.
  • To “cover the bases”.

Canadian Abridgment Digests

Searching the Abridgment Digests electronically

Cases published on the WestlawNext Canada platform include links to the Abridgment classification in the headnote. By clicking on the link, you will retrieve a list of all the digests under that classification. This is a good way to find similar cases. Once the list of digests is retrieved, you can refine the list using keywords and other filters.

Links to related Abridgment classifications are also included in CED entries, and provide another way to leverage the digests as a finding tool.

The Abridgment digests can also be researched by browsing and drilling down in the Canadian Abridgment Digests table of contents, accessed from the bottom of the LawSource home page.

  • Once you get to a relevant classification, you can link to digests under that classification.
  • If you have trouble finding relevant classifications, try using the search box at the right to search in the headings and subheadings.

The Abridgment digests are not included in federated searches. They are also not easily searched in the WestlawNext Canada platform, largely because they are too small to work well with a plain language search.

Another major problem is that the Abridgment search results are displayed in classification order, and within that by reverse chronological order. It is not possible to sort the results by relevancy. This makes searching within the collection very unwieldy and difficult.

Searching in the Abridgment digests will be more manageable if you

  • select certain classifications within which to search, using the “Specify content to search” button at the top right
  • filter search results by classification after running a search
  • either force the search to be run as a Boolean search, or run a plain language search and then narrow the results with the “Search within results” filter and other filters

Finding relevant Abridgment classifications using the print version

educThere are a series of steps to be followed if you want to use the print version of the Abridgment effectively. The first step is to identify the general subject areas in which your topic may be covered.

  • The best tool for finding applicable subject headings and classifications is the Key section of the Key and Research Guide. Look up your topic in this guide. If the term you look up is not used as a subject heading, the cross-references will usually direct you to the appropriate subject heading. The Key and Research Guide also contains an Abridgment Overview section, that indicates which subject headings fall within broad legal categories. This can be helpful if you have no idea where to start.
  • Once you have identified the appropriate subject headings, review the table of contents for those subject headings in the Key. Note the most relevant classifications, using the subject heading and classification numbers and letters, and using the words comprising the sub-headings. The Key will inform you of the steps you need to follow to make your research under a particular subject heading complete.
  • If you already know a relevant case, there is a very fast way to locate the classification scheme. Look up the case in the Consolidated Table of Cases, and note the digest reference for the case. Go to the digest, and determine the classification assigned to it. This method is quick, but it does not replace a thorough review of the Key. Cases on the same legal issue often appear in more than one classification. Rather than relying on this method alone, use it to augment your search through the Key for relevant classifications.

Locating all digests under a classification using the print version

After locating the relevant classifications, the next step is to follow the classification scheme through from the hardcover Main Case Digest Volume, to the softcover Case Digest Supplement, to the monthly softcover issues of Canadian Current Law. Use the main subject heading, and the numbers and letters comprising the classification scheme, to do this. Main Case Digest Volume
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Case Digest Supplement
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Canadian Current Law

Canadian Current Law contains a quarterly cumulative index that uses the words comprising the classification, rather than the number and letter code. This index can save you considerable time, so it is worth writing down these terms when you start your research in the Abridgment.

Quicklaw’s Canada Digest

The Canada Digest service on Quicklaw has a hierarchical classification scheme. It can be browsed or searched from the Quicklaw start page, or a link in the Court Cases search template.

Unlike the Abridgment Digests, there is no simple way to link from a Quicklaw case directly into the relevant level of the Canada Digest classification scheme.  The “Find case digests” link in the Related Content box at the top right of the case display takes you to a digest of the case you are already viewing. This is of limited use.

  • One approach is to search the full digest collection, using the Search link on the start page. However, if you want to filter your search using the classification scheme, you will need to ascertain what the classification numbers are for the relevant legal issues.
  • A different approach is to start by browsing the Canada Digest, locate the relevant classification codes, and then conduct your search.
  • Yet another approach is to browse the Canada Digest to find the classifications of interest, select them by clicking in the box, and then run a search of that content by typing keywords into the “Quick Search” box.
  • The simplest approach may be to use the topical classification scheme (which is similar but not identical to the digest classification scheme) for searching or viewing full text case results. Your search can be narrowed by topic in the Court Cases template. Alternatively, your search results can be filtered using the topical classifications.

Are the Abridgment Digests and the Canada Digest comparable?

The search results obtained from the Canada Digests and the Abridgment Digests can be very different. For example, see Case digest systems vary considerably: a good topic for further study.

Given the frailties of the indexing process, it is unwise to rely too much on these classifications when conducting your research. Think of them as another finding tool: the classification will not contain an exhaustive collection of cases on a particular legal concept.

Other case digests

In addition to the Abridgment Case Digests and the Canada Digest, there are several other important digests of case law. Many are published electronically. Digest services are often used as a current awareness tool, but can also be used to augment your full text research.

Digest Name Source
BC Weekly Law Digest Print, Thomson Carswell
Canadian Case Summaries Quicklaw
Canadian Labour Arbitration Summaries LabourSource – WestlawNext Canada
CLE Society of BC Case Digests CLEOnline
Lawyer’s Weekly Digests Quicklaw
Supreme Court of Canada Reports Service Print, LexisNexis
Weekly Criminal Bulletin CriminalSource – WestlawNext Canada