Frequently Asked Questions


How do I search for cases by topic on Lexis Library?

Our answer:

As a comparison, try repeating the same search in LexisLibrary. After logging into LexisLibrary with your student portal password, select Cases from the top menu. Then in the "Search terms" box, type "stop and search" and "Search". (It is important to enclose this phrase within inverted commas, otherwise LexisLibrary will search for "stop" and "search" as separate words, rather than as a phrase). You should retrieve about 1000 cases. This again is too many hits to examine, so you will need to refine the search.

When you go back to the Cases Search screen, you will notice that there is a "Summary" search box, (if you do not see the Summary search box click on the + Show more search options link to reveal more search options.) Search the "Summary" box to find cases where your search terms are found in the case Catchwords, Headnotes, Decisions and Facts of the report. This search is therefore the same as searching the "Category" field in JustisOne. Remove your previous search, and in the "Summary" search box, type "stop and search" and then click on the red "Search" button. You should retrieve approximately 161 results, a much more manageable number.

An alternative way of limiting the search would be to apply a date restriction. In the "Judgement date" field, restrict the date range so that the date is after 1st January 2005. You can do this by selecting "date is after" from the Judgement date drop down box, then entering the date and and clicking "Search". Your search results should now be much more manageable, fewer than 90 hits.

Now try to search LexisLibrary for cases involving negligent dentists. Go back to the case search screen and reset the dates searched to "All available dates" (by selecting "All available dates" from the Judgement date drop down box). Remove your previous search from the Summary search box. In the "Search terms" box, type negligen* w/5 (dentist* or dental). Please note some of the key features of this search:

  • The asterix (*) is used so that the database will search for other variations of the word, e.g. negligent or negligence, dentist or dentists. This use of the asterix to find other variations of a word is called "truncation".
  • "w/5" is used so that the database will search for the words "negligence" or "negligent" only if they appear within 5 words of "dentist", "dentists", "dentistry" or "dental". This helps to make your search more relevant and specific.
  • Notice also that the words "dentist*" and "dental" are separated by the word "or" and enclosed in brackets. This means that the database will search for EITHER dentist (or dentists) OR dental.

Now click "Search". You should retrieve about 76 cases. As an experiment, go edit your search and replace w/5 with w/2, and then repeat the search. Notice that you have made the search even more specific, retrieving about 45 cases - you are now searching the database for negligence or negligent if they appear within 2 words of dentist, dentists or dental.

Next: Searching for cases by topic on Westlaw