This month Westlaw introduced a new way to find relevant regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations: the RegulationsPlus Index.
What is an Index? In this case, it's an alphabetical list of thousands and thousands of terms or concepts that shows which CFR provisions relate to those words or concepts. (For more see Wikipedia's Index (publishing).) The RegulationsPlus CFR Index is so extensive that in print (yes, Thomson⁄West is selling a print version, and the Zief Library should have it shortly), it takes up four large volumes. [Update, 5.19.06: Zief's copy of the new West's Code of Federal Regulations Index is now on the shelves at KF 70 .A34 W47 Law Stacks.]
Why in the world would you want to use an index when you can do a key word search? Well, take the following example:
Suppose you want to know if there are regulation that govern whether a federal contractor who is kidnapped by insurgents in Iraq can get workers' compensation benefits? If you search the CFR for:
"workers compensation" and kidnap! or abduct!
you will get no documents.
But if you go to the RegulationsPlus Index for the letter "K," and then scroll down and select the word "Kidnapping," you'll see, at the end of the list of entries for Kidnapping, a reference to: "War, workers compensation, 20 C.F.R. § 61.300 et seq."
Why did the index work when the full-text search failed? The regulations beginning at Section 61.300 use the term "detention," but West's indexers, in reading these regulations, realized that they would cover kidnapping, so the indexers listed the regs in their index under the term "kidnapping."
How can Westlaw subscribers get to the RegulationsPlus CFR Index? At the Westlaw welcome screen enter "CFR" in the "Search these databases" textbox. Then, at the search screen, select the "RegulationsPlus Index" link. You can browse alphabetically or search for index entries that start with or contain certain words or phrases.
[This is ZiefBrief's second post on RegulationsPlus. The first was An Annotated CFR At Last! New From Westlaw. The third is A Growing Federal Register Archive from Westlaw’s RegulationsPlus.]