Developing a Search
To create a search request start with terms and phrases that reflect ideas essential to your research.
Multiple search terms will be treated as an exact phrase – you do not need quotation marks
If you do not want to search for an exact phrase then separate the terms with a connector (such as OR and AND and W/P) to link the terms and phrases, and to search for word variations.
Terms are the basic units of a search. A term is a
single character or group of characters, alphabetic or
numeric, with a space on either side. A hyphen and a bracket and full stop is treated as a space, so a hyphenated word or a word in brackets or numeric is seen as two words.
A hyphen is treated as a space, so a hyphenated term
is seen as two terms.
Consecutive terms are assumed as a phrase. You must use a connector to separate words that you wish to find in the same part of a document.
contributory negligence finds the phrase “contributory negligence”
contributory AND negligence finds separate occurrences of the words “contributory” and “negligence”
- Choose search terms that are specific or closely
related to the topic of interest.
malpractice OR physician! negligence
- Choose terms you might use when discussing the
topic with a colleague, including current jargon or
Example: Freedom of
Information Act OR FOI
- The terms should reflect ideas essential to your
research topic, such as treatments, cures, or
- Include alternative terms and abbreviations.
Example: mri OR magnetic
- Avoid terms that are too general, such as jurisdiction or tort
Because of the many ways in which a proper name can be
expressed, use the following search pattern to obtain a
- Example To find documents referring to Mary Jones, use this
search: Mary OR M W/3
- (first name OR first initial W/3
- 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.
- Example 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
Using the singular word form will retrieve the singular, plural, and possessive forms of most words.
- Example: city would find city, cities, city’s, and cities’
The system will not automatically fInd the plural form of words that end in “us” or “is”, or other irregular plural forms.
- Examples: bonus would not find bonuses
- Example: child would not find children
Note: Use the OR connector in these instances, for example child OR children, or use truncation child!
Connector Order and
Connectors operate in the following order of
- W/n, PRE/n, NOT W/n
- AND NOT
If you use two or more of the same connector, they
operate left to right. If the "n" (number) connectors
have different numbers, the smallest number is operated
on first. You cannot use the W/p and W/s connectors
with a proximity connector (e.g., W/n).
Example: bankrupt! W/25
discharg! AND student OR college OR education W/5
is operated on in the following manner:
- Because OR has the highest priority, it operates
first and creates a unit of student OR college OR
- W/5, the smaller of the W/n connectors, ties
together the term loan and the previously formed
unit of student OR college OR education!
- W/25 operates next and creates a unit of
bankrupt! W/25 discharg! .
- AND, with the lowest priority, operates last and
links the units formed in the second and third bullets
Changing Connector Priority
To change the connector priority, use brackets.
Connectors inside brackets have priority over, or operate
before, connectors outside brackets.
Example: bankrupt! W/25
discharg! AND (student OR college OR education W/5
The search above prioritizes as: (student OR
college OR education W/5 loan) AND (bankrupt! W/25
Using truncation (!) and wildcard (*) characters lets
you easily combine or eliminate search terms, making your
The exclamation mark (!) is used to truncate a
word to find all the words made by adding letters to
the end of it.
- Example acqui! would find
variations on the term acquire such as acquires,
acquired, acquiring, and acquisition.
- Note Use ! only on
unique roots; fir! will find fired,
firing, and fires, but will also find first, which you may not want.
The wildcard (*) replaces a single character at any point in a word.
- Example: maximi*e finds both the maximise and maximize
The wildcard (*) is particularly useful if you are unsure of the spelling of a particular word or name. You can also use multiple wildcards in a single word.
Note: You cannot use a wildcard character (*) at the beginning of a search word.
Sometimes you need to limit your searches to a
particular time frame. The easiest way to specify a date
restriction is by using the Specify Date options on a
search form. However, you may also manually enter dates
in the Search Terms field if documents in the
source you're using contain a date section.
For example, you may want to restrict your search to
find cases decided on, before, or after a particular
date. Because date sections involve numbers, they are
"arithmetically searchable." The most effective date
format is: dd/mm/yyyy and date sections
use the arithmetic operators shown below:
|| equal to or is
|| greater than or after
|| less than or before
The following are examples of date restrictions.
|date = 2004
||date is 2004
|date > 31 December
||date aft 31 december
|date < 1/1/1997
||date bef 01/01/2004
Document Section Searching
To search within document sections:
- Click on Show Options to search specific document sections
- Select the document section you want to search from
the Section drop-down list.
- Enter your search term(s) in the Terms box.
- Click "Add to search".
- The syntax of your search will be correctly
formulated for you.
- You may repeat these steps as many times as you
wish. When you're ready, complete the rest of the form
and click the Search button.
You may also restrict your search to specific document
sections by typing your section search terms directly in
the Search Terms box. Enter the section name, then
type your search terms enclosed in brackets. Complete the
rest of the form and click Search.
name(wik AND Queensland)
find cases when you know the party names,
To find decisions by Justice Gray, enter:
Use the AND connector to link a section search to
other search terms or to other document sections. For
example, to find opinions by Justice Grayr that
discuss the disciplining of medical practitioners
JUDGE(gray) and MEDICAL PRACTITIONERS w/p DISCIPLINE
To search within headlines, type:
fly for less!)
Or, you can enter more than one document section in
your search. For example:
Headline(diabolic logic) and