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Cost-Effective Electronic Legal Research: Search Connectors

Search Comparison 2nd Gen Platforms: Lexis Advance & Westlaw

In Westlaw, a space is interpreted as an "or" connector (e.g., products liability - Bloomberg Law looks for the phrase while Westlaw looks for products or liability). To be on the safe side, it is best to type out the or connector and to enclose phrases in quotes in all three systems, that way you don't have to remember the variations.  (On Westlaw, if you want to do a terms and connectors search with only and/or connectors, put Advanced:  in front of the search, eg. advanced: wanton or reckless.)  

Lexis Advance interprets a space between terms as an "and", if there are no connectors in the search, unless it is a legal phrase recognized by Lexis Advance.   If there are other connectors in the search, a space between terms is interpreted as a phrase.  Connectors in Lexis Advance are not case sensitive, so you can use AND, as well as and.

2. Lexis Advance and Westlaw automatically search for pluralized versions of words (e.g., crime - Lexis Advance and Westlaw also look for crimes).

4. If you want to run a terms and connectors search using only the and/or connectors in Westlaw, start your search with advanced: (e.g., advanced: trademark and infringement).

5. Enter connectors in lower case. Any connector entered in upper case will be treated as a search term, not a connector.

Order of Operations:  Similar to a math equation, terms and connectors are not read in a straight left to right manner in Westlaw and Lexis.  Some connectors are read first.  See the Order of Operations chart, below.  Bloomberg law reads the order of term from left to right.

Search Connectors

Description Lexis Westlaw Examples
both terms must be present and, AND &
trademark and infringement
either term must be present or
(a space between words will be treated as an or only if no other connectors appear in the search)
space between words
car or automobile in all three systems; car automobile in Westlaw
terms must be in same sentence

(all of these options are read as near/15)

design /s defect in all three systems (but Lexis Advance will convert this to design near/15 defect)
terms must be in same paragraph w/para
(all of these options are read as near/50)
trademark /p infringement in all three systems (but Lexis Advance will convert this to trademark near/50 infringement)
terms must be within n words near/n /n breach /5 duty in Bloomberg and Westlaw; breach near/5 duty in Lexis Advance
terms must be within n words and in the order specified pre/n +n john pre/3 roberts in Bloomberg and Lexis Advance; john +3 roberts in Bloomberg or Westlaw
exact phrase enclose in quotes enclose in quotes "res judicata" in all three systems; res judicata in Bloomberg
exlude a term and not %
but not
collateral and not estoppel in Bloomberg or Lexis Advance; collateral % estoppel in Westlaw
grouping search terms ( ) ( ) (car or automobile) /p (injury or harm)
term or phrase must appear a minimum number of times not supported in Lexis Advance atleastn atleast6(termination) in Bloomberg or Westlaw
expand root word by any number of letters !
! liab! would find liable or liability; a search for liab* will also work in Lexis Advance
permit variation for a single character *
* wom*n would find woman or women; a search for wom?n will also work in Lexis Advance
plurals regular plurals (requiring the addition of an s) are searched automatically plurals and possessives are searched automatically crime would also retrieve crimes in Lexis Advance and Westlaw
hyphenated terms    hyphenated form retrieves all variations of compound words hyphenated form retrieves all variations of compound words at-will searches for atwill, at will, or at-will in Lexis Advance and Westlaw; must type out at-will or "at will" in Bloomberg

Order of Operations

Below are the Lexis Advance and Westlaw boolean connectors in the order by which they are processed, first to last.


Lexis Advance


  " "   (quotes around a phrase)
or or   (or space)
/n, w/n, pre/n, not/n, not w/n  * +/n
/s, w/s +/s
not w/s /s
/p, w/p +/p
not w/p /p
not w/seg  
and and
and not but not   (or  %)


* /n, w/n, pre/n, not/n, not w/n -  In Lexis Advance, if you use different numbers for "n" in one search statement, the smallest number is operated on first.

Note:  In Lexis Advance, connectors inside parentheses have priority over connectors outside parentheses.   Example:   For the search statement  bankrupt! w/25 discharg! and (student or college or education w/5 loan),  (student or college or education w/5 loan) is combined  first,  then anded with (bankrupt! w/25 discharg!).



Search Connectors

1. LexisNexis assumes a phrase when a search statement has a space between words, but Westlaw assumes an "or" between each of the words.  For example, if you use the search statement  statute of limitations  LexisNexis will look for a phrase, but Westlaw will look for  statute  or  of  or  limitations.  Westlaw will read something as a phrase only if you put it in quotes (eg, "statute of limitations").

2. LexisNexis and Westlaw use different indicators for segment or field searches.   Example:  searching for a term within a case name:  LexisNexis:  Name(roe and wade) ;  Westlaw:  ti(roe and wade).

3. LexisNexis does not allow you to use the connectors /n, pre/n, not w/n in the same search statement if you are using the connectors /s or /p, but Westlaw does.   Example:  unnatural /3 accumulation /s snow -  Westlaw allows this search, but LexisNexis does not.