Access to the popular legal research databases is an asset to any Moot Court aspirant. These databases are loaded with information. If one knows how to use the databases right, no other source for preparation is required. Given below are a few tips and tricks that you may use while using the research databases:
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1. Always Use Keywords
Search engines of all research databases work through ‘keywords’ only. If you write a complete phrase then the search engine your results may not be appropriate or exact in nature. And, that is why it is imperative that you use keywords. In case you want to find a phrase or a string of words together, then type the phrase inside (). Some databases also provide specific tabs dedicated to ‘phrase search for convenience.
2. Use Connectors
If you want to search for more than one keyword, then you must use connectors. There are some generally accepted connectors such as NEAR, AND, OR, etc. Make sure you capitalise the connector words. Some databases also have a ‘Boolean’ checkbox. By clicking on this checkbox, the database will not show results including the connector word.
- NEAR is used when you want more than one keyword in the same document used near to each other. Some databases also provide you with the facility to set the number of word spaces between the keywords. On setting the word space, the database will only show you search results wherein all the keywords have been used with the specified word space between each other.
- AND is also used when you want more than one keyword in the same document. But, in this case, the usage of the words may not be near and could be spread throughout the document.
- OR is used when you want either of the keywords as entered by you. They may or may not be in the same document. You can use this connector for synonyms of the main keyword so that either of them is there in the document.
3. Use the Advanced Search Option (If Available)
Some databases have an advanced search options tab. This can be used for extensive research. They are designed for the purpose of easing the process of research. Also, if you are an amateur researcher, this tab is a blessing for you. (Read: Qualities of a Good Researcher) It has a list of connectors and other symbols that will aid in effective research. Each connector or symbol is followed by a small description of its usage. You have to simply select the suitable connector or symbol and type your keywords and hit the enter button.
4. Use the Filters Effectively
Most databases also provide a number of filter options. You can use these options to further narrow down the results. You may select the type of document, such as commentary, case law, research article, case comment, etc. (Read: Important Moot Court Terminologies). You may select the name of the author, editor, publisher, etc. In the case of case laws, you may select a specific court. You may even select the time frame. When selected, the database will show you cases delivered only between the selected time frame. Some databases also provide the option to exclude overruled judgements. Use these filters effectively for best results.
5. Use the Search Within the Document Option
Sometimes the area of research is so specific that usage of keywords along with the connectors is not a viable option. To tackle this, some databases, provide the search within the document option. To benefit from this feature, you can first make an initial search using the keyword(s) and connectors/symbols. The database will filter out some of the relevant documents. You may also use the filter options. Then you may use the search within the document option. The database will further filter documents including the phrase or the keyword. Or simply you can use “Ctrl+F”, which generally works.
6. Read the Database Guide Carefully
Most databases provide a small guide. This guide includes the connector words, symbols, and other search options that are customised for that particular database. Some databases function differently, and they have a different set of connectors and symbols than what is generally used. Reading the guide will give you clarity on how to use the available database. (Read: A Comprehensive List of Landmark Judgments For Any Constitutional Law Moot)
About the Author: Yashi Agrawal is a 4th Year student at Maharashtra National Law University, Nagpur. She is currently holding the post of the Co-Convenor of the Moot court Committee. Ever since she came to know of it, she has been immensely lured by the world of mooting. She also has great experience in writing blogs for law students.
About the Editor: Shivangi Bajpai is a graduate from National Law University Odisha. As a fresher in law school, she was a part of an online law school magazine called Ergo (lawyergo.com) which was largely a peer-connect platform for students from law fraternity. She has remarkable research skills and was a researcher in Henry Dunant Moot Court Competition, in her second year of law school. She considers herself a solution-oriented individual making her an effective problem solver.