Legal Research Tip: Terms and Connectors

There are many ways you may choose to run a search through a legal research database. You may be more familiar with the use of keyword searching in which you enter a few terms that describe what you’re looking for. Your typical Google search is a great example of how we use this method daily. Although this method may be helpful for quick and easy research, you’ll want alternatives when conducting more complex legal research.

What are Boolean search terms and connectors?

A boolean search is conducted by entering a few specific terms and symbols that tell the search engine what you want it to return and/or what you want it to exclude. These specific terms can be used with connectors to specify the relationship between those terms. For instance, you may specify your terms be used in the same sentence (/s) or the same paragraph (/p). Boolean searching allows you to have full control over the types of results you see. This is especially useful when trying to narrow your results and cut down your research time.

The following is a table of Boolean terms and connectors that may be used to run a search through a legal research database like Westlaw or LexisNexis. Each database contains a list of connectors you may use which can be found in the advanced search.

Westlaw Connectors:

TermExplanationExample
& (AND)Results shown will include both search terms.Landlord AND Tenant. Your results will show only resources that include both the terms Landlord and Tenant. You will not receive results with only one of the terms.
Use a Space (OR)Results shown will include at least one of your search terms.Landlord OR Tenant. Your results will show resources that include either the term Landlord or the term Tenant or both terms.
NOT  Results shown will exclude words after NOT.Landlord NOT Tenant. Your results will show resources that include the term Landlord and exclude the term Tenant.
n/Replace the n with a number to receive results of search terms within “n” words of each other.Landlord /3 Tenant will show you results that contain the term Tenant within 3 words of the term Landlord.
s/Results shown will include terms within the same sentence.Landlord /s Tenant will show you results of the terms Landlord and Tenant within the same sentence.
p/Results shown will include terms within the same paragraph.Landlord /p Tenant will show you results of the terms Landlord and Tenant within the same paragraph.
!Results shown will include different root endings of a term.Damag! will show you results with any words that start with Damag such as: Damages, Damaging, Damaged.
*This allows for the results to show different letters where you include an asterisk.Plea* will show you results with any word that has a letter where the asterisk is such as: Pleas, Plead.
“ “Results shown will include the exact terms within the quotation marks.“Plea bargain” will only return results with the terms Plea Bargain as opposed to Plea and Bargain separately.
( )Can be used for group search terms.Property AND (Landlord OR Tenant) will show results that include the term Property and either the term Landlord or Tenant.
+sResults shown will include the first term preceding the second within the same sentence.  Landlord +s Property will show results that include the term Landlord preceding the term Property within the same sentence.
+pResults shown will include the first term preceding the second within the same paragraph.  Landlord +p Property will show results that include the term Landlord preceding the term Property within the same paragraph.
% (but not)Results shown will exclude terms after the % symbol.Landlord % Tenant will show results that include the term Landlord but not the term Tenant.
+nResults shown will include the first term preceding the second within n terms of each other (where n is a number) Landlord +3 Property will show results that include the term Landlord preceding the term Property within three terms of each other.
#Results shown will exclude plurals and equivalents.Perm# will not include terms such as permanent or permission.

LexisNexis Connectors:

TermExplanationExample
& (AND)Results shown will include both search terms.Landlord AND Tenant. Your results will show only resources that include both the terms Landlord and Tenant. You will not receive results with only one of the terms.
Use a Space (OR)Results shown will include at least one of your search terms.Landlord OR Tenant. Your results will show resources that include either the term Landlord or the term Tenant or both terms.
w/n or near/n or /nResults shown will find documents where the service locates the first term within a specified number of words of the second term.Landlord w/3 Tenant will show you results that contain the term Tenant within 3 words of the term Landlord.
AND NOTResults shown will exclude terms after AND NOT.Landlord AND NOT Tenant will show results that include the term Landlord but not the term Tenant.
Pre/nUse pre/n to find documents where the service locates the first term within a specified number of words before the second term. pre/n connector is used in situations where a different word order changes the meaning of a statement. For example, “summary judgment” is different than “judgment summary”, so for results that include summary judgment, enter: summary pre/2 judgment  
w/sentResults shown will include terms within the same sentence.Landlord w/sent Tenant will show you results of the terms Landlord and Tenant within the same sentence.
w/paraResults shown will include terms within the same paragraph.Landlord w/para Tenant will show you results of the terms Landlord and Tenant within the same paragraph.
w/seg Results will show documents where the service locates search terms in the same segment of a document, approximately within 100 words of each other.Landlord w/seg Tenant will show you results of to find Landlord in the same segment, within approximately 100 words of Tenant.
pre/p or +pResults shown will include the first term preceding the second within the same paragraph.  Landlord pre/p Property will show results that include the term Landlord preceding the term Property within the same paragraph.
pre/sResults shown will include the first term preceding the second within the same sentence.  Landlord pre/s Property will show results that include the term Landlord preceding the term Property within the same sentence.
not w/nResults will include the first term where there is no mention of the second term by at least the specified number of words. (Where n is a number)Landlord not w/3 Property will show results that include the term Landlord not within three terms of the term Property.
not w/s or not w/sentResults will include the first term where there is no mention of the second term by at least a sentence.Landlord not w/s Property will show results that include the term Landlord not within a sentence of the term Property.
not w/pResults will include the first term where there is no mention of the second term by at least a paragraph.Landlord not w/p Property will show results that include the term Landlord not within a paragraph of the term Property.
not w/segResults will include the first term where there is no mention of the second term by at least a segment (approximately 100 words).Landlord not w/seg Property will show results that include the term Landlord not within a segment of the term Property.

For research help, contact the reference desk Reference Services
806-742-7155
reference.law@ttu.edu

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