Building a Search String
Related Topics:
Search String Connectors
How Do I...?  (FAQs)
How to Use the Search Forms
User Scenarios

LexisNexis® Congressional allows you to create complex search strings, which in turn can significantly improve your search results. Keep in mind that the more precisely your search string expresses what you're looking for, the more likely the results will meet your research needs.

To assist you in learning to build effective search strings, we've provided the following topics on the subject:

Developing a Search

Searching for Proper Names

Using Wildcard Characters

For a detailed explanation of search string connectors, refer to Connectors: Reference Guide.

Developing a Search

To create a search string for LexisNexis® Congressional, start with terms and phrases that reflect ideas essential to your research. Then include connectors (such as OR and AND) and other special characters to link the terms and phrases, and to search for word variations.

If you're new to developing searches, the following steps will help you get started:

1. Identify the topic

Determine the area that you want to research. For example:

Information about the ability of Bell telephone companies to compete in long-distance markets.

2. Choose and enter your search terms

The terms should reflect ideas essential to your research topic. Use multiple terms to narrow your search.  For example, to find information on the ability of Bell operating companies to compete in long-distance markets, you might use these terms and phrases:    

Bell, telephone, long-distance, competition

Separate these terms with an AND or enter them in separate boxes on the Basic or Advanced Search forms.  If you enter the terms Bell and telephone as Bell telephone within a single search box, your search will only return results where the two words appear together, excluding, for example, results indexed to Bell operating companies.

To broaden your search, include alternative terms separated by an OR.  For an example of how this works, try the following search:

Bell Atlantic OR Verizon

The Index Term look-up tool located on the LN Congressional Basic and Advanced Search forms can be used to help with term selection by allowing the user to search or browse the CIS Index controlled vocabulary terms used to index congressional publications. To access the tool, click on the Index Terms link located right below the search boxes on the Basic and Advanced Search forms.  The tool accessed from the Basic form provides users with suggestions from subject, geographic, and issuing sources lists. The subject term suggestions can be accessed in three ways. The hierarchical browse allows users to drill down within nine broad categories of terms until they find the term or terms best suited to their search.  For example, by drilling down in the "Communication and Transportation" category, the user can find the terms "telecommunication" and "telephone and telephone industry." Alternatively, users can browse the terms in the alphabetical listing or search the subject list by keyword. A search  on "telecommunication"  returns results that include "telecommunication regulation" and "computer and telecommunication security."  The Issuing Source list includes names of congressional committees and other entities cited as issuers of publications covered by LexisNexis® Congressional. By accessing the Index Terms look-up tool from the Advanced Search form, users will also be able to access the Serial Set map terms index, so long as they are accessing LexisNexis Congressional through an institution that has purchased the Digital Serial Set module.

LexisNexis® Congressional searches for documents containing the specific terms and combinations of terms in your search request. Every term (or form of the term) in your search request must appear in the document for that document to be included in your search results.

Note:  Searches are not case sensitive.

For a detailed explanation of search string connectors, refer to Connectors: Reference Guide.

3. Use truncation and wildcards to include word variations

The truncation (!) and wildcard (*) characters let you easily combine or eliminate search terms, making your search simpler.

The exclamation mark (!) finds a root word plus all the terms made by adding letters to the end of it. For example:


finds "legislative," "legislation" "legislator," and "legislate."

The asterisk (*) holds one space for a character at any point in a word.  For example:


finds the "ei" and the "ie" spelling of the name.

4. Link the search terms using connectors

Connectors such as OR, AND, W/N (within a specific number), and so on, define relationships between your search terms. For example:

Bell w/3 company w/10 telephone w/25 broadband or fiber optic

finds documents where  "Bell" is within 3 words of "company" or a variant of company (e.g., Bell operating companies, Bell Telephone Co., Bell system operating companies, Bell system telephone companies), and where either "fiber optic" or "broadband" is within 25 words of "telephone" and "telephone" is within 10 words of "company".

5. Specify date restrictions

Use date restrictions to narrow your search to documents published on a specific day or within a date range you specify. Or restrict by Congress. Most LexisNexis Congressional search forms include a date restriction option, and many also allow you to restrict your search to a date range covering a single Congress.

Guidelines for Using Search Terms

Searching for Proper Names

Because of the many ways in which a proper name can be expressed, use the following search pattern to obtain a comprehensive result:

(first name OR first initial W/3 last name)

To find documents referring to Mary Jones, use this search:

(Mary OR M W/3 Jones)

Note: This method ensures comprehensive results and includes variations such as Mary J. Jones; M. J. Jones; Mary Jane Jones; Jones, Mary J.; and Jones, M. J.

Some names searched using this pattern will yield irrelevant references in the search results. When this happens, you may add additional search terms to decrease the likelihood of irrelevant results. For example, if Mary Jones is a CPA, you could use this search:

(Mary OR M W/3 Jones AND CPA OR C.P.A. OR accountant)

The order of surname and forename may differ. For example, to find documents that contain "R Smith" and "Smith, R," use a proximity connector like W/n:

smith W/2 r

The presentation of multiple initials may differ. For example:

rj smith

would find "RJ Smith" but not "R.J. Smith" (with periods) or "R J Smith" (with spaces). To find all possibilities, use an OR connector:

(rj OR r j OR r.j. W/3 smith)

Note: The system interprets the periods in initials as blank spaces.

A name may be given with or without middle initials.

To find articles by Raymond Smith, Raymond J. Smith and Raymond J. A. Smith use a proximity connector like W/n:

(raymond W/3 smith)

To account for all the possible combinations of name presentation, we recommend a combination of techniques. To find all of the above examples, you could use:

(smith W/3 ray! OR r)

The Advanced Search form offers an option beneath each search box that assists users in searching for witness names.  Select "witness" from the drop-down list and two boxes will display, one labeled "Last Name" and the other labeled "First Name."   The search will automatically process the first and last names entered in the separate boxes as a "name w/3 name" search.

Using Wildcard Characters

Using truncation (!) and wildcard (*) characters lets you easily combine or eliminate search terms, making your search simpler.

Use an exclamation mark (!) to truncate a word to find all the words made by adding letters to the end of it. For example, acqui! would find variations on the term "acquire" such as "acquires," "acquired," "acquiring," and "acquisition."

CAUTION:  Use ! only on unique roots; fir! will find "fired," "firing," and "fires," but will also find "first," which you may not want.  In the example above, acqui! will also find acquiesce, acquiescent, acquit, acquiet, and so on.

Use an asterisk (*) as a "wildcard" to replace a character anywhere in a word, except the first character. Use one asterisk for each character you want to replace.   For example:

wom*n — would find "woman" and "women"

bernst**n — would find "bernstein" and "bernstien"

Use the asterisk to hold a space for variations in spelling at any point in a word. For example:

bernst**nwould find both the "ei" and the "ie" spelling of the name

If you use asterisks at the end of a word, they do not all have to be filled, but may find up to the specified number of characters. For example:

transplant**would find "transplant," "transplanted," "transplanter"

Note:  transplant** does not find "transplantation" or "transplanting" because only two wildcard characters are used. To find all the variations of "transplant", use the ! wildcard character instead of the asterisk.

You cannot use a wildcard character (*) at the beginning of a search word.