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Guide to Online Legal Research

Key databases

The Library has a range of specialised databases which you can access to find legal definitions/phrases, journal articles, cases, legislation and legal commentary. The following will be useful for finding information on your legal topics:

Search operators for legal databases

AND Returns all documents that contain both the first term and the second term. A "term" can be a single word or complete phrase (no quotes are necessary around a phrase).
OR Returns all documents that contain either the first term or the second term or both. A "term" can be a single word or complete phrase.
NOT Finds documents that contain the first word, but do not contain the second. Can be useful to exclude irrelevant documents that contain unique words or titles.
NEAR Returns all documents where the first term appears nearby the second term. "Near" corresponds to 50 words, which is intended to be roughly the size of a paragraph.
W/n  Returns all documents where the first term appears within n words of the second term, where n is a number you specify.
PRE/n Returns all documents where the first term precedes the second term by no more than n words, where n is a number you specify.
/n/ Same as W/n operator (above). Finds documents where words and phrases appear within n words of each other where n is a number you specify.
/m,n/ Finer control than W/n (above). Finds documents where words and phrases appear somewhere within m to n words of each other.
TITLE(…) Limits the search to document titles only.
TRUNCATION AND WILDCARDS

The wildcard/truncation symbol * is used to replace one or more characters in a search term.

Note: When searching in AustLII, words searched will automatically match plural. This database is case insensitive. When searching for a phrase there is no need to use quotation marks unless your phrase contains operators.

Note: Boolean characters must be typed in CAPITALS.

AND Finds all documents that contain both the first term and the second term, e.g. director AND liquidation.
OR Finds all documents that contain either the first term or the second term or both, e.g. murder OR manslaughter.
NOT Finds documents that contain the first word, but do not contain the second, e.g. defamation NOT opinion.
w/n Finds words or phrases within an n number of words of each other, e.g. offensive w/10 conduct.
w/s Finds words or phrases within the same sentence, e.g. insanity w/s murder.
w/p Finds words or phrases within the same paragraph, e.g. mitigating w/p rehabilitation.
" " Place “ “ around a phrase, e.g. “break and enter”.
Truncation and Wildcards

? replaces a single character, e.g. car?.

* replaces multiple characters, e.g. act*.

and In the search panel, use the word and to search for words or phrases within 20 words of each other, eg agreements and contracts.
or The or connector locates every occurrence of each word or phrase. It is useful to locate words with similar meanings. For example, agreements or contracts will find each instance of agreements and each instance of contracts.
not Use the not connector to isolate a word that usually forms a phrase. For example, if you want to find capital but not capital gains, search for capital not gains.
w/n Returns all documents where the first term appears within n words of the second term, where n is a number you specify. The value of n cannot exceed 127 words.
f/n Returns all documents where the first term precedes the second term by no more than n words, where n is a number you specify.
p/n Returns all documents where the second term is preceded by the first term by no more than n words, where n is a number you specify.
w/sen Returns documents that contain a phrase within 20 words of another word. For example, "insider trading"; w/sen director. Note: use quotation marks when searching for an exact phrase in combination with other search terms.
w/par Returns documents that contain a phrase within 80 words of another word. For example, "insider trading" w/par director. Note: use quotation marks when searching for an exact phrase in combination with other search terms.
Truncation and Wildcards

The wildcard symbol *  is used to replace 0, 1 or more characters.

The wildcard symbol ?  is used to replace one single character.

( ) Brackets are used to control the order of a search. In a search query, brackets are evaluated first.
AND Matches documents where both terms exist anywhere in the text of a single document (The symbol "&&" can be used in place of the word AND).
OR Links two terms and finds a matching document if either of the terms exist in a document.
NOT Excludes documents that contain the term after NOT (The symbol "!" can be used in place of the word NOT).

PROXIMITY SEARCHES

"~" ( tilde symbol) - use at the end of a phrase to find words which are a within a specific distance away.

w/# or /# - use to find two terms within a certain number of words of each other in a document (# equals a number). 

w/s or /s - use to find two terms within (approximately) the same sentence. The syntax defines a sentence as within 25 words.

NOTE: The current syntax does not support the use of a proximity search with phrase searching. To look for a phrase in proximity to another phrase, enter ALL words in quotes and use the tilde symbol with he desired number.

TRUNCATION AND WILDCARDS To perform a single-character wildcard search use the "?" symbol.
To perform a multiple-character wildcard search use the "*" symbol.
FIELD SEARCHING You can search any field by typing the field name followed by a colon ":" and then the term you are looking for.For example:
title: "The Right Way" AND text: "go this way".

Information on search commands and connectors for the Lexis Advance Research database can also be found in this guide

Note: use these operators in a Basic Search
AND Searches for documents containing both terms.
OR Searches for documents containing either or both of two terms.
NOT Searches for documents containing one term but not any other in a record.
Nesting ( ) Use brackets () to construct a more precise search strategy when combining search operators AND, OR, NOT.
Proximity ~ Searches for documents with terms near each other, i.e. debt recovery~5 finds the terms debt and recovery within five words of each other.
Wildcard and Truncation 

Wildcard: use a question mark (?) in a search term to represent a single character.

Truncation: use an asterisk (*) in a search term to represent zero or more characters. 

And Use the And operator to search for multiple words in the same record. It may be specified any one of three ways: a single space between words, the ampersand &, or the word and.
Or Use the Or operator to search for multiple words in the infobase (the words may or may not be in the same record). The Or operator may be specified one of two ways: the pipe | or the word or.
Not Use the Not operator to search for records which do not contain a particular word or set of word. Not can be used by with only one word, but it is often used in between two. The Not operator may be specified one of two ways: the caret ^ or the word not.
XOr Use the XOr operator to search for records which contain one of two words but not both. The XOr operator may be specified one of two ways: the tilde ~ or the term xor.
" " Type the phrase you wish to search for in full quotation marks.
Proximity Operators (/, @, #)     Use proximity operators to indicate how close the words must be together e.g.  dog w/5 cat.
Truncation and
Wildcards

To replace single character use ?
To replace multiple characters use *
To find synonyms use $
To find word forms use %

You can use Wildcards in both phrase and proximity searches. It is important to note that due to the complexity of wildcard and phrase searches – when you conduct these in legislation you may find they take a long time.

AND (&) Finds documents with both search terms.
OR Finds documents with either search term, or both.
BUT NOT (%) Finds documents that contain one term, but not the other.
" " Finds documents with the exact phrase.
Truncation and Wildcards

* Single character wildcard.

! Multiple character wildcard.

Proximity Search
(Numerical Characters)

/n Finds search terms within n terms of each other (where n is a number).

+n Finds the first term preceding the second by n terms (where n is a number).