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Legal Research and Writing

Headnotes and Editorial Enhancements

Headnotes and Editorial Enhancements

Learn about how headnotes, and other editorial enhancements, can help you navigate through a court opinion.


Published appellate opinions feature text at the beginning summarizing the facts, reasoning, and holding of the case. This summary is called the syllabus or synopsis. Sometimes this text is prepared by the official reporter of opinions, a person who works for the court. Sometimes it's prepared by an editor who works for a commercial publisher. Some opinions have both. 

Opinions typically address multiple issues. Reporters extract the points of law discussed and list them, in order, at the...