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Tutorial:

GENERAL INFORMATION

  1. Help and Feedback.
  2. Navigating Our Pages Generally.

SEARCHING OUR COLLECTIONS

  1. Simple Searches.
  2. Complex Boolean Searches.
  3. Citation Searches.


GENERAL INFORMATION

1. Help and Feedback.
Welcome to the National Law Library Tutorial! Our goal is to help you reduce your legal research time and lighten your workload by helping you craft search queries that will yield the fastest results. On this page you will find tips for searching our collections in a variety of ways, including "Boolean" searches, the fastest means of searching National Law Library.

We are dedicated to providing you with the best Technical Support possible. We welcome your comments and suggestions about ways to improve this Tutorial. Contact us at support@itislaw.com.
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2. Navigating Our Pages Generally.

To better navigate around our site, please remember these procedures:

  • [Return to List] or the [Back] button on your computer returns you to your search results page.
  • [New Search] returns you to the search templates for the legal information you previously searched.
  • [State Collections] and [New Jurisdiction] return you to pages that allow you to enter a different collection.
  • Remember that additional detailed searching instructions appear on our "help" pages.
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SEARCHING OUR COLLECTIONS

1. Simple Searches.

The Simple Search template provides a simplified method for constructing search expressions with Boolean Operators. This template also allows phrase searching.

To begin your search, type in one or more words that are likely to appear in your desired results. If more than one word, select one of the Boolean operators or the "Phrase" option displayed underneath the search box.

  • Use "And" to obtain only results containing all search terms.
  • Use "Or" to obtain results containing one of the search terms.
  • Use "And Not" to eliminate results containing the second search term.
  • Use "Within" to obtain results containing one search term within a designated number of words of another.
  • Use "Phrase" to obtain results containing the search terms used together exactly as they appear in the search box.

Press "Submit" on the navigation bar to continue.

Note: National Law Library's search engine only accommodates alphanumeric characters. Therefore, if you wish to search for a phrase containing punctuation marks, omit the mark and substitute a space where the mark would have occurred. For example, to search for a statutory citation, e.g., Fl. Stat. § 95.091 in the Florida Statutes or case law collection, submit "95 091" using the Phrase function. To find "730 So.2d 757" within the text of a document, submit "730 So 2d 757" using the "Phrase" function. (The "Citation Search" discussed below, is a template designed to lead you a specific case when you enter its citation. Using the Phrase search will bring you the document cited, as well as other documents containing a cite to the document.)

Your search result page will appear with the following information:

  • At the top of the result page, you will find a navigation bar containing navigational options
  • Next, your search terms translated into a Complex Boolean Search expression.
  • Next, the total number of hits (pages containing your search terms) will be displayed.
  • A list of "hits" will appear, consisting of citations to pages found by the search engine. These citations link to the full documents cited. (Occasionally, when searching case law, you will obtain multiple citations to a case on the list. This happens because cases are broken down into pages. Search terms that appear on more than one page in a case will yield multiple citations.)

Now, you have several options:

  • Review your search results by clicking on "Next Group" or "Prev Group".
  • Study each search result by clicking on one of the citation "hits".
  • Formulate a new search by clicking on "New Search"
  • Choose a new database by clicking on "State Collections" or "New Jurisdiction"

2. Complex Boolean Searches.

The Complex Boolean Search template provides a method for entering more complex searches than can be handled in the Simple Search template. It allows you to group multiple search strings into one search by using parentheses. Because the entire search is entered manually in the Complex Boolean Search template, it is important that search operators and punctuation be entered correctly. The statements must make Boolean logical sense. Here's a list of guidelines to follow:

  • Always begin your search string with a left parenthesis and a space.
  • Always end your search string with a space and a right parenthesis.
  • Insert backslashes prior to search operators (i.e. "\AND", "\OR" and "\AND \NOT").
  • The search operators are not case sensitive, so they may be entered in upper-case or lower-case letters.
  • Surround all entries with spaces. This includes parentheses, search operators and search words. The only exception to this rule is that there should be no spaces at the very beginning or the very end of a search string (before the initial or after the ultimate parenthesis).
  • Search words are not case sensitive, so they may be entered in upper-case or lower-case letters.
  • You may edit your search string by using Left Arrow, Right Arrow, Backspace, Delete and Insert keys.

Using \AND

The search operator \AND tells the system to search for pages that contain the words surrounding the Boolean operator. For example, if you wanted to search for all pages containing the word "oil" that also contain the word "spill," you would enter the following search:

( OIL \AND SPILL )

Note the spacing around each search element. Once you have entered the search string, you may execute the search by clicking the "Submit" button.

Using \OR

The search operator \OR tells the system to search for the pages containing either of the search words surrounding the Boolean operator. For example, if you wanted to search for pages containing either the word "livestock" or the word "cattle," you would enter the following search:

( LIVESTOCK \OR CATTLE )

It is acceptable to enter extra parentheses in the search string, although it is not required. For example, the previous search could have also been entered as:

( ( LIVESTOCK ) \OR ( CATTLE ) )

Once you have entered the search string, you may execute the search by clicking the "Submit" button.

Using \AND \NOT

The search operator \AND \NOT tells the system to ignore all occurrences of the word that follows it. For example, if you wanted to search for pages containing the word "water" that do not also contain the word "rights", you would enter the following search:

( WATER \AND \NOT RIGHTS )

Once you have entered the search string, you may execute the search by clicking the "Submit" button.

Using \W

The search operator \W tells the system to search for two words within a specified proximity of each other. This proximity is specified as a number of words. The \W operator is always used with an accompanying number to specify the number of words to use for the proximity. For instance, \W5 is interpreted as four intervening words. The search words which were combined with the \W5 operator would have to have four or less intervening words in the text to satisfy the search. Intervening punctuation does not affect the search criteria. For example, if you wanted to search for the words "polluted" and "water" within one word of each other (zero intervening words), you would enter the following search:

( POLLUTED \W1 WATER )

If you wanted to search for those same two words but within 20 words of each other (19 intervening words), you would enter the following search:

( POLLUTED \W20 WATER )

Once you have entered the search string, you may execute the search by clicking the "Submit" button.

Example of Complex Proximity Searching

To search for pages containing the words "vin" within 1 word of "verified" and verified within 10 words of "stolen" the following query would need to be performed:

(  (  vin \w1verified ) \and ( verified \w10 stolen ) )

A common mistake is to combine both elements of the search as in the following example:

( vin \w1 verified \w10 stolen )

This query will not work properly because the search engine can not establish which element of the search must be within 10 words of stolen.

It is important to note that using this proximity operator in your searches may greatly increase the time required to perform the search. Please be patient, as the search could take several minutes to complete.

Using \O

The search operator \O works in much the same way as the \W operator. It tells the system to search for two words within a specified proximity of each other. Again, this proximity is specified as a number of words and the \O operator is always used with an accompanying number to specify that proximity. For instance, \O5 is interpreted as four intervening words. The search words that were combined with the \O5 operator would have to have no more than four intervening words in the text to satisfy the search and, as with the \W operator, intervening punctuation does not affect the search criteria. There is one important difference between the \O and \W operators however. The \O operator is order specific meaning that the words must appear in the text in the order specified in the search. The order in which the search words are entered is critical with this operator. For example, if you wanted to search for the words "polluted" and "water" within one word of each other (zero intervening words) and in that order, you would enter the following search:

( POLLUTED \O1 WATER )

If you wanted to search for those same two words in the specified order but within 15 words of each other (14 intervening words), you would enter the following search:

( POLLUTED \O15 WATER )

Once you have entered the search string, you may execute the search by clicking the "Submit" button.

It is important to note that using this proximity operator in your searches may greatly increase the time required to perform the search. Please be patient, as the search could take several minutes to complete.

Complex Search Expressions

Complex search expressions are those that have other search queries nestled within them. For example, suppose you wanted to retrieve the pages containing the words "mineral" and "rights", but you didn't want those pages if they also contained the words "water" or "gas". Such a search string would look like:

( ( MINERAL \AND RIGHTS ) \AND \NOT ( WATER \OR GAS ) )

Again, this search would retrieve all pages containing the words "mineral" and "rights," as long as those pages do not also contain either the words "water" or "gas".

Following is a second example of a complex search query:

( ( LEGAL \AND RULING ) \OR ( LEGAL \AND PRECEDENT ) )

This search would retrieve all pages containing the word "legal" along with either the word "ruling" or the word "precedent".

Wild Card/Root Searching

You can perform root or wild card searching in the Complex Boolean Search by entering a root word followed by an asterick (*) in the search entry box. This root word can be placed anywhere in a search string that a normal word can be placed. When a word is entered in this manner, the system will automatically expand the word into you search string placing the \OR operator between each occurrence of the expanded word. For instance, if you wanted to search for all pages containing the words "frivolous," "suit," and all expansions of the root word "sanction," you would enter a search string like:

( FRIVOLOUS \AND SUIT \AND ( SANCTION* ) )

The system would automatically expand "sanction*," transforming the search into something like:

( FRIVOLOUS \AND SUIT \AND ( SANCTION \OR SANCTIONABLE \OR SANCTIONED \OR SANCTIONING \OR SANCTIONS ) )

3. Citation Searches.

The Citation Search provides a quick method for finding a particular case using a case citation. This search is only available for Case Law databases.

This search is executed by entering the three parts of a citation (book, edition and page) in the "Citation" entry boxes and clicking "Submit" on the navigation bar. For example, to search for the citation "965 S.W.2d 3", perform the following steps:

  1. Enter "965" in the first "Citation" entry box
  2. Enter "3" in the third "Citation" entry box
  3. Click "Submit" on the navigation bar to complete the search.
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