Q&A: Using the Advanced Search template in WestlawNext

July 12, 2010

Q&A - Westlaw Research Expert WebinarsParticipants in our recent Westlaw Research Expert Webinar Series, “The Benefits of Terms & Connectors on WestlawNext,” asked a lot of good questions about the Advanced Search template, a useful feature for building precise Terms and Connectors queries.  So, how about some answers?

Note: For a quick overview of Terms and Connectors and the WestlawNext Advanced Search template, see the slides from the webinar, and be sure to check out our collection of past Q&A posts, including our most recent Q&A on using Terms and Connectors in WestlawNext.

Q: Are all the fields you can search listed on the Advanced Search page?
A: Yes.
The Advanced Search page offers a template-style search screen that allows you to enter your search terms into boxes that will automatically search the relevant fields. The fields you see will vary by document type searched. For example, clicking into the Advanced Search page from the main screen will provide the standard options (e.g., “Find documents that have…All of these terms / Any of these terms / This exact phrase,” etc.), while clicking into Advanced Search from the Cases page will provide additional fields such as party name, citation, synopsis, digest, judge, and attorney.

Q: Do I need to use connectors in the Advanced Search template?
A: No.
The Advanced Search template automatically adds the connectors appropriate to the fields you decide to use. For example, in the “All of these terms” field, terms are automatically separated by an ampersand (&). You can use Terms and Connectors in the Advanced Search template, but it’s not required.

Q: Is it true that the ampersand (&) can only be used in the Advanced Search template?
A: No.
The ampersand (&) can be used in either the main search box or the Advanced Search template. When an ampersand is the only connector used in your query, a plain-language search is run. When more than one connector is used, a Boolean Terms and Connectors search is run.

Q: How is OR used in Advanced Search?
When using the Advanced Search template, you can search for multiple terms with an OR in between them just by entering your terms in the “Any of these terms” field. When you do this, an OR is automatically inserted between the listed terms.

Q: What do quotation marks do in Advanced Search?
When you are using the Advanced Search template, any quoted phrases you enter will be treated as components of a plain-language query. This means the WestSearch algorithm will retrieve documents with your phrase AND related documents that may not contain the phrase but discuss related concepts. If you want to limit your search to an exact phrase, use the “This exact phrase” field in the template.

Q: In the “phrase” searching field, can you enter more than one phrase? Sometimes you need to include multiple phrases in your query.
A: Yes,
you can search for more than one phrase by connecting the two phrases. For example, “statute of limitations” & “breach of contract” will search for documents with both of those phrases.

Q: Are the term frequency links in the Advanced Search template equivalent to the Lexis “atl” command?
A: Yes.
The “Term frequency” feature within the Advanced Search template allows you to specify the minimum number of times a term should appear in a document. After entering terms in the “All of these terms,” “Any of these terms,” or “This exact phrase” fields, you can click the “Term frequency” link to the right of each box and specify the number of times each term should appear in the result documents.

Q: If I have a name and want the full name to appear once and the last name to appear multiple times, how would I do that?
In this situation, you should enter the first and last names into “All of these terms” boxes, and then set the term frequency for each (“once” for the first name, “multiple times” for the last name).

Q: I searched for the name Caruthers, but I kept getting hits that gave me Caruth. How do I avoid that?
To get that exact name, click the Advanced link next to your selected jurisdiction and enter Caruthers into any of the three boxes under the heading “Find documents that have.” This will only return documents with the exact word “Caruthers.”

Q: When you enter multiple phrases into the “This exact phrase” box, does it connect the phrases with an “and” or an “or”?
A: “Or.”
However, you can change this to “and” by using an ampersand between phrases (e.g., “first phrase” & “second phrase”.)

Q: If I run a plain-language search, can I use Terms and Connectors to narrow by “Search within results”?
A: Yes.
You can use Terms and Connectors to narrow any plain-language search.

Q: How do you enter a date search?
On the Advanced Search template, there is a date box that will allow you to restrict by date. Alternatively, the Terms and Connectors date restrictor can still be used in the search box.

Next up: Understanding search results in WestlawNext