When subject searching the databases it is more efficient to spend a few minutes thinking about how the database may treat your search terms and come up with a search string that is going to bring back the best results.
Unfortunately the databases do not act like Google, the most efficient searches use terms and connectors that ‘talk’ to the database in the language they can understand. An added frustration is that although there are common elements the databases do use different characters for some connectors.
Below is a table of some of the common ones in 4 of the databases we recommend you use when doing the research for your LRMSP moot. If in doubt then there is usually a breakdown of these under a ‘help’ section on the databases.
As you will notice in the chart, most databases will presume an ‘and’ in between terms, with the exception being Lexis Library. This means you will need to put any terms you wish to see as a phrase in speech marks. Likewise you need to make sure you put ‘and’ in between terms in Lexis Library so it sees them as being separate.
You may want to start with the simple ‘and’ connector to see what results come up. However this will bring up results where there is perhaps one mention of one of the terms and the others are mentioned throughout but not connected. One way to address this is to use proximity connectors to create a closer relationship between the terms.
These consist of a) within the same paragraph b) within the same sentence c) within a number of words. As you can see in the chart you need to be careful as to whether you need the the ‘w’.
So using our example keywords of ‘remote’ and ‘damage’ if we were searching Halsbury's Laws we might come up with:
Another useful tool would be to using a truncation symbol to make sure the database searched for all endings of the word (this saves you doing multiple searches or having to use the ‘or’ connector). So to add to the example we could use it to bring back remote, remotely, remoteness.
Although there are lots of different databases you can use. We have highlighted below 4 of the most useful ones when you are subject searching UK law. We have also included the most useful tools along with short videos demonstrating how to use them.
Lexis Library has a glossary on the home page which give a legal definition as well as key cases and legislation. It does not cover everything but can be useful if you are new to a legal term.
You can use the ‘general’ tab at the top of the page (not the large search box) to search across the whole of the UK content. You should use your terms and connectors as below
remote! w/3 damage
Lexis Library also has Halsbury’s Laws of England and Wales which is a very authoritative encyclopaedia. It can be found on your bookshelf on the homepage or under the ‘commentary’ tab at the top.
Click below for a detailed look on how to search Lexis Library (it will open up in YouTube - right click and then choose new tab/window ).
Practical Law is a database primarily designed for practitioners. However it is useful for subject research, especially for mooting.
You can narrow down by practice area but the top bar is usually adequate for most research. You can use your terms and connectors here so in the example above that would be:
remote! w/3 damage
Note that unlike Lexis, there is no ‘w’ with the proximity connector.
Practice Notes are the most useful resource for mooting research. These are detailed ‘articles’ which look at the practical application on the law on a given topic. The majority of them are ‘Maintained’ which means that they are continuously updated.
There is also a mooting guide which can be found under Law School resources – skills – mooting and advocacy.
Click below for a look at how to search Practical Law or view it on YouTube @ https://youtu.be/JnsY9-57C_Y
Westlaw is not only useful to find items off your reading list, it has some good features for subject searching as well.
You can search across everything from the homepage with the exception of books using your terms and connectors.
A good starting place however is the Insight tab at the top which is an overview of a legal topic with the key cases and legislation. You can use your terms and connectors here as well for example:
remote! /3 of damage
Like with Practical Law (who are owned by the same people) you don’t use a ‘w’ with the connector.
Westlaw has the Legal Journals Index which is an abstract of most UK legal articles from 1986 onwards. If you only find an article with an abstract you can always find the full text by putting the title of the journal into SOLO.
Westlaw also has a great collection of practitioner textbooks such as Chitty on Contract, Clerk and Lindsell on Torts and McGregor on Damages.
Click below for a detailed look on how to search Westlaw or you can view it on Youtube @ https://youtu.be/zqdVLcEiLHk
JustisOne is a great database for finding out more about cases and is the one place that may not be too overwhelming if you wanted to subject search for cases.
You can search the main search box for your subject terms or you can browse. If browsing the database will keep asking you to narrow your terms down (and you can use the drop down menu to change to category) but when you are happy just click on Show Documents.
See the short video here on how to search and browse on JustisOne or view it on YouTube @ https://youtu.be/8yyaAcBrz1k.