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POSC 492 International Human Rights (IP): Finding Federal & State Case Law

Finding Case Law

SEARCHING LEXIS

Universal or Wildcard Characters

Often there are variations of your search terms that you would like to retrieve. For example, searching the word CHILD will not find the word CHILDREN, although this term might be relevant to your search.

To make your search more effective, you can search for word variations using the asterisk (*) as a wildcard symbol. An asterisk (*) replaces one letter, can be used more than once in a word, and can be used anywhere EXCEPT as the first letter of a word. For example, searching on the term wom*n will locate records containing both woman and women.

Use an exclamation mark (!) as a truncation to replace more than one letter at the end of a search term. You can only use this symbol once in any word. For example, searching on the term immigra! will locate records containing the terms immigrant and immigration.

Note: LexisNexis Academic automatically includes plural forms of most words when performing a search. It is not necessary to use wildcard characters to search for variations such as "boat" and "boats"; for more on this see the section on Plurals below.

Using the W/s (Within Sentence) Connector

Use the W/s connector to find documents with search words that appear within the same sentence. You may also use W/s when you want a close relationship between words without specifying an exact proximity.

For example, the following search finds "sanction" within the same sentence as "frivolous":

sanction W/s frivolous

The following example finds "circumstances" within the same sentence as "mitigat!":

circumstances W/s mitigat!

Note: W/s connectors cannot be used in combination with W/n connectors.

Using the W/p (Within Paragraph) Connector

Use the W/p connector to find documents with search words that appear within the same paragraph. You may also use W/p when you want your search words to have a general relationship to each other.

For example, the following example finds "rule" within the same paragraph as "sanction":

rule 11 W/p sanction

The following example finds "take over" or "takeover" within the same paragraph as "poison pill:"

take over OR takeover W/p poison pill

Note: W/p connectors cannot be used in combination with W/n connectors.

The Law

Using the W/n Connector

Use the W/n connector to find documents with search words that appear within "n" words of each other. The value of "n" can be any number up to 255. Use W/n to join words and phrases that express parts of a single idea or to join closely-associated ideas.

Words or phrases linked by W/n must be in the same segment (a specific part of a document). Either word may appear first.

Note: W/n connectors cannot be used in combination with W/s or W/p connectors.

For example, the following search request tells the research software to find documents in which both words appear in the same segment, within three or fewer words of one another.

william w/3 hearst

It retrieves documents containing the words William Randolph Hearst; William R. Hearst; and Hearst, William R.


Specifying the value of "n" There is no magic formula for choosing the value of n, but these guidelines may prove useful:

Choose from these options:

W/3 - W/5: words will appear in approximately the same phrase

W/15: words will appear in approximately the same sentence

W/50: words will appear in approximately the same paragraph


Using Multiple W/n Connectors
If W/n connectors have the same number, they operate from left to right. If they have different numbers, the smaller number operates first.

Using the AND NOT Connector

Use the AND NOT connector to find documents in which a search word or phrase is to be excluded.

For example, the following search finds documents where the word "trust" occurs but the word "charitable" does not.

trust AND NOT charitable

Because the exclusion covers the entire document, a document would be excluded if the word "charitable" appears anywhere in the document. Therefore, even if "charitable" is used as a term of distinction in a document, the document would not be included in the search results. For example, a document that includes the phrase "this is not a charitable trust" would not returned, even though that is the type of trust you want information about.