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LGL 125: Legal Research (AL): Search Techniques

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Natural Language Searching

From Nexis Uni:

How does the Natural Language search on Nexis Uni™ operate?
The Natural Language search will attempt to analyze the terms in your search to try to understand the intent of your search rather than running the search as a phrase or with an implied connector. For example, running the search: first amendment—without any connectors or quotes—will take you to the text of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution rather than running your search as “first amendment,” first OR amendment, or first AND amendment. Running a search for obamacare will bring you back documents that reference both Obamacare and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

To develop a Natural Language search, use terms that you might use when describing your research topic to another person. For example, to find articles about efforts in the fast food industry to use recyclable packaging, you might use this search: What efforts has the fast food industry made to use recyclable packages? Or, you can use just the most important terms and phrases, in any order: recycle package fast food.

Boolean Searching with Connectors

Boolean searching, with connectors, allows you to do a more powerful, sophisticated search than a natural language search.  You can, for example, control how closely words appear to each other and use synonyms.


AND - finds documents that contain all the terms.  
            Example:  chocolate AND football AND virginia

OR - finds documents where any of the terms appear.  
          Example:  lawyer OR attorney

W/n - finds documents where terms appear within a certain number of words of each other.  
           Example:  dog w/5 cruelty

AND NOT - finds documents that do not include certain terms.  
                     Example:  bank AND NOT deregulate

W/S - finds documents with terms in the same sentence.

W/P - finds documents with terms in the same paragraph.

W/seg - finds documents with terms in the same segment.

Word Variations


Use an exclamation point (!) to replace more than one letter at the end of a word:
     disab! = disability, disabilities, disable, disabled, disabling



Use an asterisk (*) to replace one letter in a word.  It can be used more than once within a word:  
     lab**r = labor, labour  (this will also find words like elaborately)
     wom*n = woman, women

Search Within Document Sections

NexisUni breaks documents -- cases, regulations, law reviews -- into sections called Segments.

The types of Segments vary by document.  For example,

  • Case Segments include:  Headnotes, Judges, Opinion, Outcome, Overview
  • Statute and Regulation Segments include:  Heading, Section


You will find these Segments listed under "Advanced Search" (link is under the search box).


On the Advanced Search page, click on "Search specific content type" and select a content type (e.g., Cases, Codes) to view Segments.


How Results Are Displayed

Nexis Uni can display your list of results in several different ways.  By:

  • Date (either the most recent first or the oldest first)
  • Source (e.g., by court)
  • Relevance (best matches first)

Choose how to display your results from the Sort by dropdown menu.