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Presentation on theme: "TERMS and CONNECTORS SEARCHING ON WESTLAW INSTRUCTIONAL AIDS SERIES."— Presentation transcript:


2 Terms & Connectors Searching on based on Boolean logic developed from the theories of 19 th century mathematician George Boole. You’ll often hear a Terms and Connectors search called a Boolean search.

3 Contents Introduction Terms Connectors Fields

4 Introduction

5 Anxiety over Terms and Connectors Searching Beginning and experienced researchers alike often shy away from Terms and Connectors searching because –“it has to be exactly right or it won’t work”; or –“the rules about which connector to use and the order of processing are too complicated.” Neither perception is true. It does take a little thought to construct an effective Terms and Connectors search, but this type of search is based on simple rules and logical choices, not higher mathematics.

6 Why Use Terms and Connectors Searching All databases on Westlaw can be searched using Terms and Connectors. Most, but not all, databases can be searched using Natural Language. Terms and Connectors searching is very precise.

7 When to Use Terms and Connectors Searching –you are looking for particular terms; –you are searching for a particular document; or –you need all documents containing specific information, such as all cases classified under a particular key number, all newspaper articles that mention a specific company, or all statutes containing a particular term.

8 Steps in Constructing a Search: ITAC Method (Issue, Terms, Alternatives, Connectors) Clearly state the ISSUE, using legal terminology when possible. –Stating your issue as a question is a good way to clarify your thoughts. Is a social host liable for injuries caused by his intoxicated guests?

9 Steps in Constructing a Search: ITAC Method (Issue, Terms, Alternatives, Connectors) Select a few key TERMS from your issue. –Using three to five key terms works well for most issues host injury intoxicated guest or host intoxicated guest

10 Steps in Constructing a Search: ITAC Method (Issue, Terms, Alternatives, Connectors) Enter reasonable Alternative terms for your key terms. –Use acronyms and antonyms as well as synonyms. A term that may seem to have little relationship to a key term may be a reasonable alternative. The host of a party could be a corporation, an association, or a club. host intoxicated guest hostess drunk attendee corporation D.U.I invitee association D.W.I. club sober

11 Steps in Constructing a Search: ITAC Method (Issue, Terms, Alternatives, Connectors) Add appropriate Connectors to specify the relationship you want each term and its alternatives to have to the other terms and their alternatives. host hostess /p intoxicated or drunk or alcohol /s guest

12 Steps in Constructing a Terms and Connectors Search: the ITAC Method Issue is defined in legal terminology Terms that are essential are selected Alternative terms that are reasonable are selected Connectors that connect the terms in reasonable relationships are added

13 Terms

14 For this exercise, let’s assume you want to retrieve all cases in a database that addresses: A social host’s liabilities for injuries cause by intoxicated guests There is no right or wrong way to construct a search; just proceed using common sense. Host, intoxicated, and guest will be the key terms for this exercise. We could have chosen more terms, but it’s wise to stick with the essential terms.

15 Terms hostintoxicatedguest hostessdrunk alcohol Get into the habit of placing your key words in a horizontal line in your mind, if not actually on paper. Under each key word, add any word that is a reasonable alternative. You can probably think of additional alternatives for the exercise but right now, let’s keep this exercise simple.

16 Using the Thesaurus to Find Alternative Terms The Thesaurus feature on Westlaw provides synonyms and acronyms for the key words in your query and lets you add them to your search. The Thesaurus does not provide antonyms and other irregular alternatives but you can add these terms yourself.

17 Expanders: Making the Most of Terms: The Root Expander (!) The root expander (!) retrieves all extensions of words with variant endings (up to 16 characters). Drunk! Retrieves drunk, drunken, and drunkard. Be careful not to truncate your root term too severely. Depo! Retrieves not only forms of deposition, but also deposit, depositor, deposited, deport, deportation, etc.

18 Expanders: Making the Most of Terms: The Universal Character ( * ) The Universal Character ( * ) is used in place of a letter (like a wild card or a blank tile in Scrabble). dr * nk retrieves drank, drink, and drunk. The universal character cannot be used in place of the first letter of a word. The universal characters can be used at the end of a term to specify how many letters may be added. Example: object ** would retrieve object, objects and objected but not objective.

19 Expanders: Making the Most of Terms More than one expander can be used in a term. s **** holder retrieves both shareholder and stockholder. dr * nk! Retrieves drank, drink, drinkable, drunk, drinking, drunken, and drunkard.

20 Terms: Automatic Enhancements The singular form of a word automatically retrieves the plural and possessive forms of the word, including irregular forms. The plural or possessive, however, will not retrieve the singular. Woman retrieves women, woman’s and women’s; women or woman’s will not retrieve woman. Use the singular form of a word unless you have a good reason not to.

21 Terms: Automatic Enhancements Search term 415 also retrieves 415.5, 415(b), and 415(b)(1)(A) or 415(b) will not retrieve 415. This is helpful when you are looking for mention of a statute that may or may not be cited as a particular paragraph or section.

22 Terms: Automatic Equivalencies Most accepted variations of the spelling of a term will retrieve other accepted variations: –Judgment = Judgement –Millennium = Millennium Automatic equivalencies are built into Westlaw. For example: –Three = 3– First = 1 st –New York = NY– Avenue = Ave.

23 Terms: Other Enhancements Hyphenate compound words in your search. A hyphenated term will retrieve the term whether it is one word, two words, or a hyphenated word. good-will retrieves good will, good-will, or goodwill. If you have any question whether a word might or might not be hyphenated, add the hyphen.

24 Terms: Other Enhancements Use periods between the letters an acronym to retrieve all variations of the acronym. –Periods between letters –Spaces between letters –Periods and spaces between the letters –No period or spaces between letters E.P.A. retrieves E.P.A, E P A, E. P. A., and EPA

25 Connectors

26 host! /p intoxicat! Or dr*nk! or alcohol! /s guest After you have decided on the terms that you will use in your search, the next step is to connect each key term and its alternatives with the other key terms and their alternatives. A connector specifies the relationship between the terms on either side of the connector.

27 The Most Commonly Used Connectors Space = Or host! /p intoxicat! dr*nk! Alcohol! /s guest or host! /p intoxicat! or dr*nk! Alcohol! /s guest A space between two terms means “or”. You could type in the word “or” if that is easier to remember. In the query above, host! and guest are required terms along with the expansion of any one, two or three of the terms intoxicat! Or dr*nk! Or alcohol!.

28 The Most Commonly Used Connectors /p = Same Paragraph host! /p intoxicat! dr*nk! Alcohol! /s guest The /p connector requires that the terms on one side of the /p connector be in the same paragraph as the terms on the other side of the connector. No particular order is required. In the above search any expansion of host! must be in the same paragraph as any expansion of intoxicat! or dr*nk! or alcohol! (or any expansions of any two or all three of the alternative terms).

29 The Most Commonly Used Connectors /s = Same Sentence host! /p intoxicat! dr*nk! Alcohol! /s guest The /s connector requires that the terms on one side of the /s connector be in the same sentence as the terms on the other side of the connector. No particular order is required. In the query above, guest must be in the same sentence of the expansion of intoxicat! or dr*nk! or alcohol! (or any expansions of any two or all three of the alternative terms).

30 More Connectors: & = Same Document host! /p intoxicat! dr*nk! Alcohol! /s guest & insurance The & connector requires that the terms on one side of the & connector be in the same document as the terms on the other side of the connector, whether two terms or 200 pages apart. A document with good on page two and faith on page 50 most likely won’t be discussing a good- faith issue. The & connector is valuable only in limited situations.

31 More Connectors: & = Same Document The & connector is valuable in the following situations: If you think one term in your query may not appear near your other query terms in the documents you want to retrieve, use the & connector. host! /p intoxicat! dr*nk! Alcohol! /s guest & insurance Use the & connector when you are searching for terms in several sections of the document. (More about this type of search later).

32 More Connectors Quotation Marks (“ “) = Phrase Quotation marks around a phrase or term of art, such as “limited liability,” are used only when the concept is invariably stated the same way each time it is used. Consider whether the phrase could appear another way, such as “liability was limited”. A safer search would be to require limited and liability to be within the same sentence or within a specified number of words of each other.

33 More Connectors /n = Number of Terms /n requires that the terms on one side of the /n connector be within a certain number of terms of those on the other side. No particular order is required and grammatical structure is ignored. liability /3 limited N represents any number between 1 and 250, for example /3 or /150. /n is most often used when the words on either side should be fairly close together but are not invariably in the same order. liability /3 limited would retrieve both limited liability and liability was limited.

34 More connectors The Plus Connectors (+) Order the Terms +s, +p, +n connectors require that the terms on the left of the connector precede the terms on the right within the specified relationship. Under-ground +4 tank This query requires that underground precede tank by no more than four words. Any word(s) can appear between storage and tank. This connector is often used when a word must appear twice within the specified relationship. jones +5 jones could be used to find references to Jones v. Jones.

35 Connectors and Expanders Reference List A full list of all connectors and expanders with brief explanations of their use can be accessed from the Search page in®.

36 Reordering Connectors Use of Parentheses Words within parentheses are processed first and then treated as a unit. (defect! /s design!) “product liability” retrieves either any expansion of defect within the same sentence as any extension of design or “product liability”. Parentheses are useful when you are searching for citations to multiple statutes: ( ) ( ) will retrieve mention of 42 USCA 1981 or 15 USCA 311.

37 Your Turn All the passengers getting off a flight from Miami are taken to a small room at the airport by the Miami police. They are questioned and their clothing and luggage are searched. What is the legal claim? Can police detain passengers, search and seize their clothing and luggage, without probable cause? What are your key terms?

38 search! seiz! /s clothing luggage back-pack /p airport airplane plane & “probable cause” “search and seizure” /p airport air-plane plane /p clothing luggage back-pack /p “probable cause” Above are two possible searches. There are many other possible searches. Neither search is right or wrong. Usually it takes a few tries before you retrieve the number of documents you need to feel confident that you have found enough relevant documents to continue your research, but not so many as to be overwhelming.

39 Your Turn Again Senator Jones has been insisting that the right to contribute any amount to a political candidate is constitutionally protected and any limitation would be a violation of the First Amendment right of free speech. Is he right? What is the legal issue? Pick out the key terms, add reasonable alternatives and decide on the connectors that will join each term and its alternative with the other terms and their alternatives. You probably won’t have a problem at all!

40 Field Searches

41 Fields on Westlaw Most documents on Westlaw are divided into segments called fields Field searching adds even more precision to a Terms and Connectors search. The names and number of fields that a document contains depends on the type of database. A case law database has different fields than a statute law database. For example, there is no judge field in a statutory database.

42 Fields on Westlaw Most fields are entered in the search as a two-letter abbreviation. For example, the abbreviation for the title field in case law is ti. The abbreviation of the field is immediately (no space) followed by parentheses. A Terms and Connectors search within a field is constructed in the same way as a search that is not restricted to a specific field expect that the terms are entered within the parentheses. di(“probable cause” /p stop! /p car automobile vehicle)

43 Fields Knowing which fields a database contains and what information is in each field can greatly increase the efficiency of your search. The terms must be in the specified field(s) or the document will not be retrieved. The following slide will show some of the fields in a case law database and their abbreviations that would be used in a search.

44 Case Law Fields on Westlaw You can access a Fields dropdown list from the Search page on You can use the dropdown or enter the search directly into the search textbox.

45 Case Law Title Field You need to retrieve a case. All you know is that one party’s name is Bush and the other party’s name is Gore. ti(Bush & Gore) requires that both the terms Bush and Gore appear in the portion of the document that contains the names of the parties: the title field. The & connector can be used here because the field is so small the two terms will necessarily be close together. The search would be equally effective if /s or /p had been used as the connector.

46 Case Law Synopsis and Digest Fields A combination of fields can be searched. Just put a comma between the fields. The sy, di combination field is a favorite of law students because it searches both the synopsis and the digest fields in one search and insures that in the cases retrieved the issue is central to the case. Sy, di(wrongful! /5 terminat! discharg!) Sy, di(“product liability” /p danger! defect! /p air- bag)

47 Case Law Synopsis and Digest Fields The headnote and synopsis fields are prepared by West attorney-editors. - using consistent and current legal terminology - using descriptive terms instead of proper names - adding alternative terms for ambiguous, regional or outdated words Examples: - Tenant is used instead of Mr. Blake or plaintiff - Aspirins used instead of Bufferin or Tylenol - Intoxicated is used instead of tipsy A headnote and synopsis field search retrieves many online reporter cases that you would otherwise miss.

48 Case Law Fields on Westlaw

49 A Case Law Field Only on Westlaw Words and Phrases Field The Words and Phrases (wp) field is used when you need to find a judicial definition of a word or phrase in the body of the case. No documents are retrieved that discuss the word or phrase without defining it. You will first see the definition in a headnote. Jump from the headnote to the body of the case to see the court’s exact wording of the definition. wp(“constructive discharge”)

50 The Date Restriction Field The date restriction (da) field is available in databases in which the documents are dated, such as case law, administrative decisions, journals and law review databases. You can require documents after a date, before a date, between two dates or on a specific date. The added date (ad) field is used only to determine when documents were added to Westlaw.

51 Multiple Field Searching in Case Law What if you only know that one party’s name is Smith, that Smith’s attorney’s name is Brown and that the case was decided after ti(smith) & at(brown) & da(aft 1990) is the focused search that would retrieve the case (assuming you are in the correct database) Notice the & connectors between the fields. This is an example of one of the times the & connector must be used. Without the & connectors, your search would retrieve documents with Smith in the title field or Brown in the attorney field or all documents decided after 1990.

52 Statutory Law Fields There are not as many fields in a statutory law database. Most of these fields are not available in case law databases.

53 Statutory Law Fields: the Citation, Prelim and Caption Fields The citation (ci) field contains the statute’s citation. ci( *) Will retrieve the following sections in Title 42: 198 and 1980 to 1989 pr,ca is a useful combination of fields in a statutory database. The pr, or prelim, field is the statute’s heading; the ca, or caption, field contains the specific title of that statute. pr,ca (“title 11” & exemption)

54 Statutory Fields on Westlaw

55 Statutory Law Fields: The Substantive Document Field The substantive document (sd) field contains all the fields that are not enhanced by Thomson Reuters attorney-editors (the “official” segments of the statute) The sd field includes the prelim, citation, text, and credit fields. Annotations are not included in the sd field.

56 Combining Unrestricted Searches and Field Searches Many searches are a combination of unrestricted or free-text searches (words can be found anywhere in the document) and field searches. “dying declaration” /p time hour minute second day /p admiss! Inadmissible admit! & ju(jackson) This search retrieves cases addressing a dying declaration and how long it can be asserted before death and be admissible according to Judge Jackson’s previous decisions.

57 Your Turn You need cases since 1980 that discuss the Environmental Protection Agency regulations concerning underground storage tanks for which Judge Clifford wrote the appellate decision. Use the Main Cases (ME-CS) database and construct an effective search using both free text searching and field searching. Hint: A case might use the phrase underground gasoline tank or underground oil tank or underground storage tank.

58 We hope that you have found this lesson helpful. If you have more Westlaw education or training needs, please contact your Academic Account Manager or call the Reference Attorneys at WESTLAW.Academic Account Manager If you have feedback on the Instructional Aids Series, please contact Erin Jensen.Erin Jensen Thank You…


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