Q&A: Using Terms and Connectors in WestlawNext

July 9, 2010

Q&A - Westlaw Research Expert WebinarsThanks to all of the Westlaw power users who participated in our recent Westlaw Research Expert Webinar Series, we received dozens of great questions about using good ol’ Terms and Connectors in WestlawNext. Here are some of the answers, provided by the West reference attorneys.

Note: For a quick review of Terms and Connectors on WestlawNext, be sure to see the slides from the webinar, and check out our collection of past Q&A posts.

Q: Can I just write a “classic” Boolean search without using the Advanced Search template?
A: Yes,
you can enter a standard Boolean Terms and Connectors query into the search box without selecting Advanced Search. Whenever a query contains a connector (/, !, %, etc.), it automatically becomes a Terms and Connectors search.

Q: Once I use a connector that will initiate a Terms and Connectors search, will the function recognize other Terms and Connectors such as quotation marks?
A: Yes.
When used without other connectors, quotation marks, ampersands (&), spaces, and occurrences of the word “or” are considered parts of a plain-language search. When used with other connectors, they become Boolean connectors and follow the standard Terms and Connectors search rules.

Q: Do you lose the power of the WestlawNext algorithms when you use Terms and Connectors?
A: No.
The WestSearch algorithms are used for ranking the results of all searches in WestlawNext.

Q: How does relevancy ranking work when you use a Terms and Connectors search?
WestSearch determines which results are most relevant to your search and places them at the top of the list. WestSearch does this by analyzing dozens of relationships, including the West Key Number System, KeyCite, ResultsPlus, document links, usage patterns and editorial content.

Q: How can I search for multiple phrases, or one phrase within a number of another phrase – for example, “_____” /s “_____”?
Quotation marks can be used along with proximity connectors in the main search box (e.g., “_____” /s “_____”), or you can use the “All of these terms” field in the Advanced Search template. You can enter multiple phrases in quotes in that field. An ampersand (&) is added between phrases automatically, but you can also use proximity connectors like “/s.”

Q: How does WestlawNext deal with pluralization? Should we be concerned about using the exclamation point (!)?
WestlawNext will search both the singular and plural form of any word that you enter into the search box. If you use the Advanced Search template, searching the singular form of the word will return both singular and plural forms of the word; searching the plural will only return the plural form of the word. The “!” connector is a root expander used to bring back variations on the form of a word – for example, contract! will return contract, contractual, contracted, contraction, contracting, etc.

Q: Does the pound sign (#) just invoke a Terms and Connectors search, or does it have a role within the search as well?
The # symbol forces the system to search for a particular word that may be too common otherwise. For example, if you enter #before, WestSearch would look for “before” as a term. The pound symbol also turns off the automatic-equivalents function, so #dog will only search for dog and not dogs.

Q: Are all the usual fields still available – for instance, wp in cases, and sd in statutes?
A: Yes,
but the best way to utilize these fields in WestlawNext is through the Advanced Search option.

Next up: Using the Advanced Search template in WestlawNext