Business Law: Search Strategies

Research guide for students enrolled in Business Law classes.

Search Strategies

  • Boil your topic down to the most important words.  Ignore superfluous words like in, the, of, with, against, affect, impact.  Begin with a keyword (your most important words) search first.
  • Put each "different piece" of your topic in a separate search box.  Our topic: Are employers liable for the acts of bouncers who physically remove patrons?  Three different pieces: bouncers, liable, bar, and we'll put each different piece on its own line, leaving the AND off to the left alone.  This'll search for  records that have bouncer AND liable AND bar somewhere in the record:

 

  •  Too many results?  Focus your search by searching for your keywords in the ABSTRACT field or the TITLE field.  Click on the All - Smart Search to select  the abstract or title field.  Or focus your search by using "an exact phrase" search.
  • Too few results?  Think of synonyms.  Add synonyms to your search.  Keep your synonyms all on the same line.  A second search, using more synonyms garnered more results:

  • Increase your results by removing the least important "piece" of your search while still retaining the "essence" of your search (in the case above, the least important piece would be the bar or nightclub or club aspect). 
  • Still no results?  Can't find information specific this topic?   Broaden your search slightly.   Look for information on employer liability for the actions of employees.  Still no luck?  Try a different journal article database.
  • When reviewing your results, look for relevant "subject" or "descriptor" words.  Find subject terms either on the results page, or at the end of individual records.  Write down relevant subject terms that you find.  
  • Go back to the search screen and using the subject terms you discovered, search your subject terms in the subject or descriptor field.  Subject terms are gold threads--they will almost always lead you to the most relevant results.
  • Be sure to take advantage of:
  • Boolean connectors (AND, OR, NOT)
  • Exact phrase searching -- "nightclub security" 
  • Field searches (search within the abstract, title or subject fields)
  • When you find an article you want, use the       link to find full-text.
  • No full-text?  Use ILLiad to receive a copy of the article or book from another library.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) are used to connect keywords and concepts when searching.

    Operator     Example Result
AND

business AND ethics
cooking AND Spain

Retrieves records that contain    
ALL of the search terms.
OR

hotels OR motels
www OR world wide web
theater OR theatre

Retrieves records that contain
ANY of the search terms, but
does not necessarily include
all of them.
NOT

java NOT coffee
Clinton NOT bill

Excludes records containing
the second search term.

Search Strategies

If your initial search query does not produce the desired results, try:

Strategy Example
Word Choice

Keep search queries simple and descriptive;  use as few terms as possible.  Pull the nouns out from your topic, if you're unsure which words are most important.  Avoid natural language queries as they can limit your results--use colorado statehood instead of when did colorado first become a state.

Phrase Search

Use double quotation marks ("Barack Obama") to search terms as a phrase--those quotations marks will glue your words together, and search them exactly like that--glued together.  Remember that an exact phrase search is exact.  A search of "Barack Hussein Obama" will retrieve only pieces of information that refer to Barack Hussein Obama; citations that refer to him as  'Barack Obama' will not be retrieved.

Limit

In the library databases, limit your results by year, by  type (academic journals, magazines), by document type (review, article, speech, short story, etc.).  Limits may be found under the advanced search options.

Exclude

In the library databases, you can click on the AND to the left of the search box, change it to NOT, and type in a term that you do NOT want to appear in your results.

Synonyms

Using synonyms will pull in more search results.  To search for synonyms,  use the OR operator.  A query on hotel OR lodging OR inn directories will retrieve any or all of the types of these words.  In the library databases, keep your "like" synonyms all on the same line.  Again, connect them with OR.

Word Endings

Library databases do not automatically truncate, or search for different word endings.  You'll need to use help to figure out the symbol used to truncate OR think of all word endings you'd like to include, and search them--on the same line--connected with OR.

Search Well

Although the topic's unrelated, the search strategies/concepts are extremely useful.  Guaranteed to make you laugh and teach you valuable search skills.