Indexes search basic information about articles, such as the titles, authors, subjects, and abstracts. One helpful way to remember what's being searched in an index is to think about the type of basic information that could fit on an index card.
Searching an index is a good starting point because it will help you quickly and efficiently identify articles that are focused on your topic. You'll get just the articles that include your search terms in the title, subject, or abstract and not those that mention them once in passing in a footnote.
Here are some popular legal indexes:
In contrast to indexes, full text databases search the entire texts of articles. You'll find more articles than you would find in an index and are likely to find relevant articles that aren't specifically focused on your topic but discuss it in a few paragraphs or a page or two. However, some of the articles you find may only mention your search terms very briefly, in a footnote or a few passing sentences, so you'll need to spend more time sorting through your results to find what's actually relevant.
Here are some popular full text legal databases:
If you are writing about a specific case, statute, regulation, or previous law review article, one strategy for locating law review articles is to retrieve the source you're writing about on Lexis, Westlaw, or Nexis Uni and then check for law review articles citing to the source (use the "citator").
To check for law review articles citing to a source:
Additionally, for statutes and (to a lesser extent) federal regulations, the staff for each database curate a smaller list of notable law review articles about the statute or regulation ("annotations").
To check for the smaller list of articles curated by database staff: