Developing a Search
If you're new to developing searches, the following
steps will help you get started:
- Identify the topic.
Determine the area that you want to research. For
example, information about efforts
in the fast food industry to use recyclable
- Select your Source.
For a topic like recycling in the fast food industry, you might want to begin your search in a news source. The "News, All (English, Full Text)" group source contains hundreds of full-text business, financial, trade, and news publications.
Choose your search terms.
The terms should reflect ideas essential to your
research topic. Include alternative terms, and try to
avoid terms that are too general. For example, to
find articles about efforts in the fast food industry
to use recyclable packaging, you might use these
terms and phrases:
Note: Searching is not
Use truncation and
wildcards to include word
The truncation (!) and wildcard
(*) characters let you easily combine or eliminate
search terms, making your search simpler.
! Finds a root word plus all the terms
made by adding letters to the end of it.
"recycle," "recycling" and "recyclable."
Note: Terms that work best with
! are those that are unique in their truncated
form. For example, if you search for
fir! (thinking that you want to find
"fired," "firing," or "fires"), your results will
also include "first," "firm," and so
on.* Holds one space for a character
at any point in a word:
bernst**n finds the
"ei" and the "ie" spelling of the name.
- Link the search terms using connectors.
Connectors such as OR, AND, W/N, and so on define
relationships between your search terms. For
recycl! W/25 fast food W/10
container OR package
finds documents where either "container" or "package"
is within 10 words of "fast food," and "fast food" is
within 25 words of "recycle" (or its variants).
To see the list of all connectors and information about
how to use them, click connectors or click the More
Connectors link here or on a search form.
- Specify date
Use date restrictions to narrow your search to
documents published on a specific day or within a date
range you specify.
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 is treated as a space, so a hyphenated term
is seen as two terms.
A period is treated like a space except when:
- The period is preceded and followed by a
Example: 99.9 is one
- The period is preceded by a space and followed by a
Example: .999 is one
- The period is preceded by only one alphabetic
character and followed (with no spaces in the sequence)
by any number of single letters each of which is
followed by a period.
Example: F.B.I. is one
term, while F. B. I. is three terms (because
of the spaces after the periods)
- 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 FOIA
- 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 "illness"
Because of the many ways in which a proper name can be
expressed, use the following search pattern to obtain a
(first name OR first initial W/3
To find documents referring to Mary Jones, use this
(Mary OR M 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.
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.
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
- 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
(smith W/3 ray! OR
Using the singular word form will retrieve the
singular, plural, and possessive forms of most words.
For 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. For example, bonus would not
find bonuses and child would not find
children. Use the OR connector in these
Connector Order and
Connectors operate in the following order of
- W/n, PRE/n, NOT W/n
- NOT W/SEG
- 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/para and W/sent 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
- 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.
- 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
wom*n would find woman
bernst**n would find bernstein and
Use the asterisk to hold a space for variations in
spelling at any point in a word.
bernst**n would 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.
transplant** would find transplant,
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.
(Not available for all search types.) Duplicate options lets you choose whether
or not you want to use similarity analysis to process your search results. Similarity
analysis detects similar documents in your search results and groups them together. For more information
about duplicate options, see What are duplicate options?
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 Enter 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 the "Show" link next to "Search Within 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.
Entering Document Section Restrictions in the Search Terms Field
You may also restrict your search to specific document sections by typing your section search terms directly in the Enter Search Terms box. Enter the section name, then type your search terms enclosed in brackets. Complete the rest of the form and click Search.