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Legal Research Tips for Your Summer Work: Our Favorite Search Tips

Our Favorite Search Tips

The Maloney Library reference librarians have compiled a list of searching tips and favorite advanced searching methods. They appear in no particular order. 

  1. Always start with a secondary source for areas of law you are not familiar with and use the secondary sources citations to cases, statutes, regulations, etc. to begin searching primary sources. 
  2. Start with broad searches and then refine your searches using filters like mandatory authority courts and advanced search methods like proximity connectors.
  3. If your search is returning too few results, try broadening your search using less restrict connectors like "AND" and using synonyms. 
  4. If your search is returning too many results, gradually add restrictive connectors. 
  5. Stay organized. Keep a research log that tracks where (i.e., the database used) and what (i.e., search terms) you searched. Keep a folder of relevant documents your have located and use a file naming convention and subfolder to organize your materials.

See below for additional search tips. 


If you have any questions, reach out to a reference librarian for assistance by:



Video Tutorials

The Maloney Library maintains an extensive collection of video tutorials on many of the topics covered in this guide. 

Video Tutorials

Topical and Jurisdictional Research Guides

Most academic law libraries produce research guides, much like this one, that collect information by jurisdiction and/or on a specific legal topic. If you are researching an issue you are unfamiliar with and looking for materials to start with search for a legal research guide on the topic. To find a legal research guide follow these steps:

  1. Go to Google.
  2. Search legal research guide [legal topic (e.g., environmental law)].
  3. Select a guide from a law school in the relevant jurisdiction.

Advanced Searching

Below is a table of advanced searching methods that are favorites among the reference librarians. These methods are primarily used to narrow or restrict searches and should be used when you are returning too many results. 


Connector or Search Feature

How it works



Bloomberg Law


Searches for content within the same sentence, paragraph, or number of words. Word order is not considered.

/s, /p, /n

/s, /p, /n

/s, /p, /n

Example: copyright /5 infringement 

This search will search for the terms copyright and infringement within five words of each other regardless of whether copyright appears before or after infringement.

Word Order

Searches for words in a specific order and proximity.

+s, +p, +n

+s, +p, +n


Example: copyright +s infringement

This search will search for the terms copyright and infringement in the same sentence where copyright appears before infringement.


The search will exclude the term.




Example: copyright NOT infringement

This search will search for documents that include the term copyright, but not infringement. All documents that have the term copyright and infringement will be excluded.


Searches within a specific section of a document. Fields and segments change by type of document.

Select the type of resource (e.g., cases, statutes, etc.), then use the Advanced Search feature to view the available segments.

Select the type of resource (e.g., cases, statutes, etc.), then use the Advanced Search feature to view the available fields.

Not available

Example: For cases, both Lexis and Westlaw allow you to search the editorial summary of the case. In Lexis, this is the Summary segment and in Westlaw, it is the Synopsis field. 

Searching the case summary will allow you to focus your search on cases where you issue is a primary discussion in the case.