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Researching Environmental Law: Efficient Searching - Wexisberg

General Rule for Online Research

Know how to narrow your search.

You have not conducted a good search for an actual problem when you have 10,000 results. The best ways to efficiently search in online databases are:

1) Use a controlled vocabulary like the West Key Number System or Lexis Advance Topics. 

These systems index case law to help you find cases on a particular point of law. It is similar to using a print index in a book. After you select a key number or a topic, you can still narrow the jurisdiction and utilize search terms to search the full text of cases assigned to that topic. This is a highly efficient method of searching case law and is based on the print Digest, which you used during your first year at Loyola in Lawyering I. 

2) Use content areas or jurisdiction-specific materials.

On all of "the big 3" legal research databases (Wexisberg - Westlaw. Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law), you can narrow your search by content and/or jurisdiction. You should do this before and/or after your search. If you know you are looking for controlling law in Louisiana on a Louisiana issue, make sure you are only searching that jurisdiction (plus any possible overlapping federal law). Are you looking for practice forms or information about a specific practice area? Select the practice-ready areas and narrow it down to an area like labor and employment. We'll show you how to do this in class, and come see us if you need more specific information. 

3) Use well-thought-out search terms.

One of the most important considerations for electronic searching is the words you use to conduct your search. Do you need a particular word/phrase? You can use quotes to search exact phrases. You may also want to use terms and connectors (otherwise known as Boolean terms); the basic ones are: and, or, not. This short video discusses the importance of terms and connectors - although it was made for Lexis Advance, it will apply to almost every database (particularly Westlaw). Although this seems elementary, it can be so useful in helping you research efficiently - this will save huge amounts of time and (in practice) save money. If you need help determining search terms, talk with a law librarian. 


It would also help if you knew in advance what types of materials are in these databases - if you are lucky enough to be know where you'll be working and you have access to an electronic database, get familiar with it in law school while you still have access to all of the bells and whistles. Some firms may also have a library - they can be just as helpful as your school librarians, and they know exactly what resources are available through your firm. 

Research Help for Wexisberg

There are many help resources for Wexisberg - Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg - in addition to your law librarians. Check out our guide below for research help, representative contact information, and links for more help.

Video Guides

One of the great things about Lexis is that they have a bunch of YouTube videos to help you use the database (and some of these skills could apply to the other databases). It comes with examples and simple explanations. You can browse all videos or select a playlist by topic. I highly recommend you browse the videos on the Shepard's system to help you quickly and efficiently understand Shepardizing for finding up-to-date case law and statutes.