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Introduction to Legal Research: Terms & Connectors

Class guide for Prof. Bradley's sections

Terms and Connectors - creating search queries

Connectors

Note: on Lexis Advance connectors must be in lower case, otherwise they will be treated as a search term
Note: on Westlaw Edge using connectors does not automatically trigger a Terms & Connectors search. You must use a proximity or grammatic connector in the Search Box; type adv: before your search; or use the Advanced search template.

  Lexis Plus Westlaw Edge

Notes

  And

  • retrieves documents with both terms
  • narrows a search

 

  • and
  • and
E.g. dogs and cats retrieves only
documents containing both dogs and cats

  Or

  • retrieves documents with either term
  • broadens a search
  • or
  • or
  • a space between terms
E.g. dogs or cats retrieves documents
containing dogs, documents containing cats,
and documents containing both dogs and cats.

  Exclude terms

  • retrieves documents with one term and not the other
  • narrows a search
  • and not
  • but not
  • %
E.g. dogs not cats retrieves documents
containing dogs, but not documents
containing both dogs and cats.

  Proximity Numeric

  • requires that the terms on one side of the connector be within “x” number of terms of those on the other side.
  • /x
  • w/x
  • /x
E.g. liability /3 limited would retrieve both 
limited liability  and  liability was limited

Proximity Grammatic: Same Paragraph

  • requires that the terms on one side of the connector be in the same paragraph as the terms on the other side of the connector.
  • /para
  • /p
  • w/p  
  • /p
 

Proximity Grammatic: Same Sentence

  • requires that the terms on one side of the connector be in the same sentence as the terms on the other side of the connector.
  • /s
  • /sent
  • w/s
  • /s
 

Exact Phrase

  • requires that the terms within quotation marks appear exactly as entered - in the same order, with no other words in-between.

type quotation marks around terms to be searched as a phrase

type quotation marks around terms to be searched as a phrase

Note: If you do not use quotation marks, a space between two words is processed as an "or" connector.

 
Default Order of Processing

The “default order of processing” is the order in which the system processes your search query

Most systems process your connectors in this order: OR, Numerical Proximity Connectors (smallest to largest), Grammatical Connectors (/s before /p), AND, NOT.

Override default order by using parenthesis

Terms
  Lexis Plus Westlaw Edge

Notes

Multiple-Character Wildcard/ Term Expander

  • Also called root expander
  • The term truncation is also used


 

  • !
    • retrieves terms that match any number of characters in the middle or end of a word
  • *
  • !
    • retrieves terms that match any number of characters only at the end of a word

E.g., drunk!
retrieves drunk, drunken, and drunkard.

com!al
retrieves commercial, communal, and computational
 

Single-Character Wildcard

Retrieves terms that match any single
character in the middle or at the end
of a word

? *

E.g., dr*nk (dr?nk on Lexis)
retrieves drank, drink, and drunk
s****holder (s????holder on Lexis)
retrieves both shareholder and stockholder.

Plurals

the singular will automatically retrieve the plural form of a word, including irregular plurals

 

 

the singular will automatically retrieve the plural form of a word, including irregular plurals

 

 

 

On both systems

  • dog retrieves: dog and dogs
  • woman retrieves woman and women

 

 

Which to Choose

When should you use a Natural Language search instead of a Terms and Connectors search? Classic legal answer, it depends.

  • Terms & Connectors search
    • With experience in research and practice areas, you will learn to construct more focused, relevant searches
      • More control and precision
    • Based on Boolean logic so you will hear it called Boolean searching
  • Natural Language search
    • Work because of the algorithms developed by the research services
    • May be more helpful when you are not familiar with a particular practice area

First, you should always write out a clear issue statement. What question are you trying to answer.

  • What is the liability of the owner of a recreational facility for injury to a customer using rented equipment?

Then draft a search query. For a Natural Language search, follow a basic pattern.

  • Party --- Cause of action --- Situation --- Situation

  • Party (fact) --- Cause of action --- Cause of action (term of art) --- Situation (fact)

  • Example: owner recreational facility liability injury customer rented equipment

Or, if you feel more comfortable with your level of knowledge regarding the practice area, use a Terms and Connectors search

  • Example: liability and (sport! or recreation /s facility) and (rent! /s equipment)
  • Using proximity connectors like /s or a root expander like ! makes the search a Terms & Connectors search
  • The parentheses are not actually required by the research services. They may be helpful for you to visually see how terms relate to each other.
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