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LRAC Legal Research Class Site

Introduction to Searching

Searching is a popular way to find information in a database.

There are two ways to search on sophisticated legal research systems such as Westlaw and Lexis – natural language searching and terms and connectors searching.

Click here for a video about natural language searching. (Note: Remember to speed the video up!)

Natural Language Searching

A natural language search is a search that uses regular spoken language. I call it a Googly search because it is like a search that you would run on Google.

Example

If you wanted to find out if horse tripping is illegal in Arizona, you could run the following Google search: arizona horse tripping "ars"

The search retrieves the following results, including a link to the relevant Arizona statute. Note: It is a good idea to include "ars" in your search so you will retrieve documents that contain ARS, which is the abbreviation for the Arizona Revised Statutes.

Natural Language Searching on Westlaw

Natural language searching is the default search method for Westlaw. If you type in a string of terms or phrases, or terms and phrases separated by ANDs or ORs, the system automatically runs a natural language search.

Example

To find the Arizona statute about horse tripping, you could run something like the following in the Arizona Statutes & Court Rules database.

tripping a horse

horse tripping

horse and tripping

Note: It is not necessary to type in Arizona because you are already searching the Arizona statutes database.

Natural Language Searching on Lexis

Natural language searching is the default search method for Lexis. If you type in a string of terms or phrases, the system automatically runs a natural language search.

Example

To find the Arizona statute about horse tripping, you could run something like the following in the Arizona Annotated Revised Statutes database.

tripping a horse

horse tripping

horse and tripping

Note: It is not necessary to type in Arizona because you are already searching the Arizona statutes database.

Another Note: Natural language searching works differently on Lexis and Westlaw. On Lexis, if you use ANDs or ORs in the search, the system automatically runs a terms and connectors search, instead of a natural language search.