Developing a Search
(with Terms and Connectors)
Related Topics
Click a link below for information about searching using terms and connectors. Examples are included.

Developing a Search
Search Terms: Guidelines
Proper Names
Search Connectors and Commands
Connector Order and Priority
Wildcard Characters
Date Restrictions
Document Section Searching

Note: On some Search forms, you may also click the Browse tab to view a specific source's table of contents, if available. Once you have found a more targeted area within the Browse tab, you may select that area only, return to the Search form and search only on that specified area. For more information, see Browsing a Source.

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.



one searchable term


one searchable term


two searchable terms


A hyphen is treated as a space, so a hyphenated term is seen as two terms.



one term


two terms

pre trial

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”

Search Terms: Guidelines

  • Choose search terms that are specific or closely related to the topic of interest.

    Example: medical malpractice OR physician! negligence

  • Choose terms you might use when discussing the topic with a colleague, including current jargon or buzzwords.

    Example: Freedom of Information Act OR FOI

  • The terms should reflect ideas essential to your research topic, such as treatments, cures, or side-effects.

  • Include alternative terms and abbreviations.

    Example: mri OR magnetic resonance imaging

  • Avoid terms that are too general, such as jurisdiction or tort

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:

  • Example To find documents referring to Mary Jones, use this search:  Mary OR M W/3 Jones
  • (first name OR first initial W/3 last name)
  • 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.
  • 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 Priority

Connectors operate in the following order of priority:

  1. OR
  2. W/n, PRE/n, NOT W/n
  3. W/s
  4. W/p
  5. AND
  6. 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 loan

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 education! .
  • 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 above.

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 loan)

The search above prioritizes as: (student OR college OR education W/5 loan) AND (bankrupt! W/25 discharg!)

Wildcard Characters

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

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.

Date Restrictions

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:

=    is    equal to or is 
>    aft    greater than or after 
<    bef    less than or before 

The following are examples of date restrictions.

date = 2004 or date is 2004
date > 31 December 2004 or date aft 31 december 2004
date < 1/1/1997 or date bef 01/01/2004

Document Section Searching

To search within document sections:

  1. Click on Show Options to search specific document sections

  2. Select the document section you want to search from the Section drop-down list.

  3. Enter your search term(s) in the Terms box.

  4. Click "Add to search".

  5. The syntax of your search will be correctly formulated for you.

  6. 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.

To find cases when you know the party names, enter:

name(wik AND Queensland)

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


To search within headlines, type:

headline(cheap flights! fly for less!)

Or, you can enter more than one document section in your search. For example:

Headline(diabolic logic) and author(aust)

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