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Recall vs. Precision Searching:
When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Go Natural
Librarian Relations Consultant
the pleasure of doing a one-on-one LexisNexis Librarian Certificate
of Mastery session -- Analytical Resources on lexis.com®
-- with an experienced research librarian. During the session, we
discussed how Search Advisor could be used to retrieve secondary
source material about a legal topic.
A few weeks later, this librarian told me that a patron came to her
with a request to find out about service of process under the Hague
Convention. The librarian knew nothing about this topic and had
searched foreign or international legal resources only a few times
in her career. She remembered from our Mastery session that it is
possible to search for a topic in Search Advisor. Grasping at
straws, she put in "service of process". Bingo! There is a topic in
Search Advisor labeled International Law>Dispute Resolution>Service
After clicking that topic, the librarian selected Search Advisor's
Analytical Resources tab and launched an International Law Review
Articles search to retrieve a set of 250 potentially relevant law
review articles. She then FOCUS'ed on "Hague Convention" and
"service of process" (and variants of both). Thus she was able to
provide her patron with on-point and current law review articles on
This year Search Advisor added some 1000 additional topics (largely
in intellectual property and immigration) to the 5500 topics in the
previously existing taxonomy. And yet, Search Advisor is often
overlooked as a potential reference tool providing access not only
to primary but secondary source material as well.
Granted, there is nothing like a precision search (eg LexisNexis
segment, boolean, controlled vocabulary, search command) in a
relevant source. I have a strong bias for such searching.
But when the going gets tough, this librarian reminded me that a
recall search can sometimes win the day -- as long as there is a way
to whittle down that result to the relevant material.
Her tool that day was Search Advisor.
My tools might also include More Like This, More Like This Selected
Text, More Like This Headnote, and yes, even Natural Language (with
a mandatory term or segment search to goose the result if needed).
All of these tools cede some portion of search control to
specialized searches developed by LexisNexis. And yet, each tool
comes with the ability to FOCUS and employ tried and true
precision-search techniques on a recall result.
For online tutorials about Natural Language vs. Boolean research
as well as using the other tools I have mentioned here, please go to
Please do not hesitate to ask your LexisNexis Librarian Relations
Consultant for more information about these tools. You may not use
them all of the time. However, these tools are handy to have in your
toolkit for those days when the going gets tough and you find
yourself "going natural".
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