Select terms & connectors searching when you are familiar with the topic and its language/jargon and/or when you want a comprehensive search (e.g., case research).
Analyze your facts - determine the legal issues raised by your problem.
Use the logical connectors to arrange your terms into ideas and concepts. The most commonly used connectors are essentially the same on Lexis and Westlaw and include, in order of processing: or; /n; /s; /p; and; and not/but not. In Bloomberg Law, it is very similar: or; n/; s/; p/; AND; and NOT.
If in doubt about order of processing, use parentheses to vary the prescribed order of processing to make sure your search retrieves the documents you intend. Terms enclosed in parentheses are searched first.
Search efficiency may be greatly improved by limiting your searches to particular segments or fields of the documents in the source/database you are searching, or by specifying a date or time period for your search result.
Browse the documents you have retrieved by looking for highlighted search terms in the text of the documents. Terms are automatically highlighted on Westlaw and one may move easily to points in documents at which search terms appear by clicking on the “Term” arrows at the bottom of the document screen. Use the KWIC - Key Word in Context - option on Lexis to view search terms within documents.
This can include terms that were not part of the query you entered.
Select natural language searching when you are beginning a research project and are not yet familiar with the vocabulary, or when you need only a sampling of relevant documents. For example, natural language searching can be useful in locating secondary source materials that provide background on the subject of your research.
Analyze your facts. Run a natural language search first if unsure what search terms would create a successful terms and connectors search.
You can express your natural language search as a question or simply as a string of words related to your legal concepts.
You must have already determined the controlling jurisdiction. Usually it is most efficient to begin searching in the smallest database containing mandatory authorities.