How to Search

General Keyword and Boolean Operator Tips

Read further for general tips on how to use Smart Search to conduct your research.

  1. Try starting without quotes.

    For instance, try searching motion to compel (without quotation marks) rather than “motion to compel”.  This will help you find a variety of ways a motion to compel may be referenced (for example, Motion by Plaintiff to Compel, or Plaintiff’s Motion Compelling …, etc.).  If you get way too many results, then start to integrate quotes for exact matches.

  2. Start with a broader search and then add keywords and Boolean operators to narrow the search

    We recommend starting with a broader search: one or two keywords/phrases plus a few Boolean operators to connect them (such as quotation marks, AND, OR, and NOT). 

    If your search returns too many results for your needs, you can then add more keywords or Boolean operators to narrow your search, including more narrow Boolean operators like asterisks (root expander), “ “~n (proximity connector), and parentheses (which builds a search with a combination of Boolean operators).  

  3. Focus on one legal question or issue at a time.

    Don’t start with explaining your entire case with a single search query. You can always add more detailed keywords regarding the parties, motions you’re looking for, or causes of action depending on your initial results.  You can also apply filters after you run your search.  
  4. Don’t use keywords that are too broad.

    There are certain words that frequently appear in most court dockets, documents, and rulings.  Using these words alone will often generate too many results to filter through.  For example, a keyword search for the terms “motion” or “plaintiff” alone won’t be helpful – these terms appear everywhere and you won’t be able to find what you want.  
  5. Instead, be specific with your legal phrases.

    You can use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase.  Instead of searching for “motion”, you could search for “motion to compel”.  Searching for “motion to compel” will bring up search results that have that exact motion type rather than other irrelevant motions.