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Legal Research Skills Guide: Search tips

Get better search results

Search operators

You can use search operators and other punctuation to get more specific search results when searching in legal databases.

Use AND to retrieve results that contain both of your search terms

negligence AND trespass

Use OR to retrieve results that contain either of your search terms

mental state OR mens rea

Use NOT to exclude irrelevant results

mediation NOT arbitration

Use quotation marks to search for a phrase "duty of care"
Use truncation to search for related words that have the same word stem. aborig* = aboriginal, aborigine, aborigines
Wildcards replace a single character in a word. wom?n = women, woman
Grouping keywords together allows you to conduct many searches at once.

(juvenile OR youth) AND detention

Searches for: 

juvenile AND detention

youth AND detention


Database searching tips

Some tips:

  • Some databases automatically place an AND between words, while others will search for a phrase. It's best to construct your searches using AND, OR and NOT so your search will work in all databases.

  • Databases use different symbols for their search operators, you can check in the help section of the database

Activity #3 - Search operators