FindLaw Help: Search Services & Query Language

Query Language

Boolean and Proximity Operators  
Wildcards  


You can search for any word or words on FindLaw (or another FindLaw database such as Supreme Court Decisions) by typing the word(s) into the query box and clicking the Search button. To find an exact phrase, enclose it in quotation marks (for example, "fish and chips"). A search produces a list of files that contain the word or phrase, no matter where they appear in the text.

Some rules for formulating queries:

  • Queries are case-insensitive, so you can type your query in uppercase or lowercase.

  • You can search for any word except for those in the exception list (for English, this includes a, an, and, as, and other common words), which are ignored during a search.

  • Words in the exception list are treated as placeholders in phrase and proximity queries. For example, if you searched for Word for Windows, the results could give you Word for Windows, Word and Windows, and other combinations, because for is a noise word and appears in the exception list.

  • Punctuation marks such as the period (.), colon (:), semicolon (;), and comma (,) are ignored during a search.

  • To use specially treated characters such as &, |, ^, #, @, $, (, ), in a query, enclose your query in quotation marks (“).

  • To search for a phrase containing quotation marks, enclose the entire phrase in one set of quotation marks and then enclose the word or words in a double set of quotation marks. For example, “World Wide Web or ““Web””” searches for the phrase World Wide Web or “Web”.

  • You can use Boolean operators (AND, OR, and NOT) and the proximity operator (NEAR) to specify additional search information.

  • The wildcard character (*) can match words with a given prefix. The query esc* matches the terms “ESC”, “escape”, and so on.


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Boolean and Proximity Operators

Boolean and proximity operators can create a more precise query.

To Search For Example Results
Both terms in the same page chicago and economics
Or
chicago & economics
Pages with both the words “chicago” and “economics”
Either term in a page truth or justice
Or
truth | justice
Pages with the words “truth” or “justice”
The first term without the second term securities and not bonds
Or
securities & ! bonds
Pages with the word “securities” but not “bonds”
Both terms in the same page, close together toxic near tort
Or
toxic ~ tort
Pages with the word “toxic” near the word“ tort”

Hints:

  • The AND operator has a higher precedence than OR. For example, the first three queries are equal, but the fourth is not:

    a AND b OR c
    c OR a AND b
    c OR (a AND b)
    (c OR a) AND b

  • The NEAR operator returns a match if both words being searched are in the same page, but the rank assigned by NEAR depends on the proximity of the words to each other: a page where the words are closer together has a higher ranking than a page where the words are farther apart. In addition, if the words are more than 50 words apart, they are not considered near each other at all, and the page is assigned a rank of zero.

  • The NOT operator can be used only after an AND operator in queries to exclude pages that match a previous content restriction.

  • You can add parentheses to nest expressions within a query. The expressions in parentheses are evaluated before the rest of the query:

    a AND (b AND NOT c)

  • Use double quotes (“ “) to indicate that a Boolean or NEAR operator should be ignored in your query. For example, “Abbott and Costello” will match pages using the Boolean operator AND; ““Abbott and Costello”” will match pages containing the whole phrase. Also, please note that in addition to being an operator, the word and is a noise word in English.


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Wildcards

Wildcard operators help you find pages containing words similar to a given word.

To Search For Example Results
Words with the same prefix comput* Pages with words that have the prefix “comput,” such as “computer”, “computing”,and so on
Words based on the same stem word fly** Pages with words based on the same stem as“fly”, such as “flying”, “flown”, “flew”, and so on

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