Legal Research

Use Google Scholar’s Advanced Search for Narrow Case Law Searching

There are various tricks to using Google Scholar for free case law searching that will help you narrow your search results to relevant cases.

Carole Levitt — nationally recognized author and speaker on internet legal research — notes that to narrow your search results, make sure to use the Advanced search menu.

To use the Advanced search menu for case law searching, click on the case law radio button on the Scholar homepage. Then, click the menu icon to find the Advanced search menu.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 9.25.53 PM
While the first four Boolean connector and phrase search boxes located on Scholar’s Advanced search menu are the same as Google.com’s Advanced Search menu, there are three “field” search boxes and one drop-down list unique to Scholar’s Advanced Search menu.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 9.27.49 PM
Unfortunately, many searchers don’t use these features because Scholar never bothered labeling them with appropriate case law terminology—they simply left the articles’ database labels on them. For example, the field search box labeled as:

  • Return articles authored by should really be labeled Return cases authored by
  • Return articles published in should really be labeled Return cases published in
  • Return articles dated between should really be labeled Return cases dated between

If you didn’t know that the “Return articles authored by” field search could actually be used to “Return cases authored by,” you might simply enter the judge’s name (e.g., Charles Vogel, a California judge), into the “all the words” Boolean search box and limited your search to California. With this search, it’s possible your results could also be that of a party, an attorney, a witness, or an expert, and so on, many of which would be irrelevant to your query.

But restricting the judge’s name to the “Return articles authored by” field search box eliminates all those extraneous and irrelevant results that you would have had to sift through.

Jamie Baker is the Interim Director of the Law Library at Texas Tech University School of Law. She also teaches Civil Trial Research. She blogs at www.gingerlawlibrarian.com.

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