Like LexisNexis, Westlaw has several full-text legal newspaper and newsletter databases. The search tips and advice are geared toward law students with academic accounts. This is not a guide that will highlight cost-efficient searching on Westlaw and Lexis.
You will see links to LexisNexis and Westlaw databases throughout our guides, however, according to our contract with these companies, the BLS Library is able to provide these accounts ONLY for BLS Law Students, Staff and Faculty! Non-BLS users should contact the companies directly for access.
You can find out if a database or publication is offered on Westlaw without signing on first, by going to Westlaw's Database Directory, which is freely available on the Internet. If the direct link above fails, the link is on the Westlaw sign on page, under "Resources."
There are two search options: (1) Search for a Database (by entering key terms into the search box) or (2) Browse Databases (opening the folders, which are categorized by broad subject area, jurisdiction, and publication type.
When searching for a database, the default search is Natural Language, which retrieves a default number of 100 documents. I suggest that you use Terms & Connectors instead--joining phrases (in double quotes) or words with AND or &. Once you find the database(s) that you want to search, take note of the database identifier(s) because you can enter the identifiers into the "Search for a database" text box (which is located on several Shortcuts pages and can always be found on the Directory page). To access multiple databases, you can type up to 10 database identifiers, separated by commas or semicolons in the "Search for a database" text box.
There are two search options: Terms & Connectors and Natural Language.
Using Terms & Connectors allows you to craft precise searches, which is especially important when searching full text documents. Depending on the size of the database, this means that you are searching thousands of documents, millions of pages.
If you are unfamiliar with Terms & Connectors searching, click on the "Help" link next to "Add Connectors or Expanders" which is located at the very bottom of the search page, following the SmartTerms box.
Also, keep things simple. Don't create overly complicated searches, unless you absolutely need to. Expect to re-do and edit your searches as you learn the system and as you gather more information from scrolling through your results.
Truncation symbol is the exclamation point (!). Use to retrieve variation of terms. For example, discriminat! will find discriminate, discrimination, discriminating, discriminates.
Commonly used connectors:
In the sample search to the left, we searched for articles about lead poisoning of children. Our synonyms are in parentheses and are connected by spaces: (child! infant!) /p (poison! toxic!). We used /p because we did not limit our search to a discrete field (the equivalent of LexisNexis' "segments") and we want to make sure our terms appear close together in the documents. If we discover that our results are not relevant, we could edit our connector to /s or /10.
The second search option is Natural Language searching, which only requires that you enter a few terms in the search box, without truncation symbols, connectors or commands. However, do place phrases in quotation marks. Generally, type in the terms that you would use if you were describing your research project to another person. In addition, the more relevant terms you enter, the better your result list will be. If your result list needs refining, use the "Require/Exclude Terms" link located under the date restriction drop-down box. Here you can mandate that specific terms appear between 1 and at least 50 times in each document you retrieve. You may also exclude terms that appear in your documents, but take care to exclude terms that are unique (so that you don't exclude potentially relevant documents).
Natural Language searching is useful when Terms & Connectors searching is not working for you or when you only need to find one or two relevant documents in order to begin your research. In addition, you may not know what terms to use or what connectors to choose. Keep in mind that Natural Language searching will retrieve a set number of results (usually 20 or 100).