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Advanced Searching for Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw

What are terms and connectors?

"Terms" refers to the words you use in your search, and "connectors" define the relationships between words or groups of words in a search statement. For example, typing /s between two search terms will search for those terms within the same sentence.

This section covers the different terms and connectors available in Bloomberg Law, Lexis, and Westlaw. See Boolean Searching in BLaw, Lexis & Westlaw for specific information on how to search each individual database, as there are some differences. Other databases generally allow for some kinds of terms and connectors searching, so whenever you approach a new database, it is a good idea to explore the connectors that are made available to you. 

Boolean Searching

Commonly used Boolean operators include:

  • AND: the operator AND, or an ampersand (&), is used to retrieve documents containing all of the words that it separates. For example, the search statement copyright AND piracy will retrieve documents that contain the words copyright and piracy. 
     
  • OR: the operator OR, or a space between words in most databases, is used to broaden a search and to retrieve records containing any of the words it separates. For example, the search statement copyright OR piracy will retrieve documents that contain the word copyright or the word piracy, but not necessarily in the same document. 
     
  • NOT: the operator NOT, or BUT NOT, or the percent sign (%), is used to narrow a search and to retrieve records that do not contain the term following it. For example, the search statement piracy NOT copyright will retrieve documents that contain the word piracy, but not the word copyright. 
     
  • “ “: the placement of search terms in quotation marks is used to retrieve documents containing the exact phrase enclosed in the quotation marks. For example, the search statement ”copyright piracy” will retrieve records that contain the exact phrase “copyright piracy.” The search would not, however, retrieve documents that use the separate terms in a different order. 
     
  • (  ): parentheses are used to group words or phrases when combining synonyms, such as (gun or pistol or firearm or rifle) or Boolean phrases. Parentheses also may be used to show the order in which relationships should be considered (like in algebra!).

Proximity Searching

Proximity connectors are used to specifically identify how closely words appear in a document. The most commonly used proximity connectors are:

  • /p: used to indicate that the words in a search statement must be found within the same paragraph.
     
  • /s: used to indicate that the words in a search statement must be found within the same sentence.
     
  • /#: the connector /#, or w/#: used to indicate that the words in a search statement must be found within a specified number of words within each other. For example, the search statement personal /3 jurisdiction will retrieve records in which the words “personal” and “jurisdiction” appear within three terms of each other, regardless of which word appears first. 

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