The Science of Searching

How the Bloomsbury Professional Online Law Library uses the same logic as leading websites to boost your power to research, quickly and precisely.

How you gather or harvest the latest legal information probably depends on which products you are used to using. Every law firm has both a physical and an electronic library, with crucial items like case law and the legislation itself accessible. Even though many of those have log ins, remote access and feeds with the latest headlines, it’s worth pointing out that there’s also a wealth of free tools to grab news that can be personalised to your desktop.

iGoogle is one example of a free tool. If you have a Gmail account or a google chrome web login (and over one billion web users in the world do) you can visit your iGoogle page for a personalised ‘portal’ that helps to corral useful information in one place, just one click away from the Google search home page. Here you see the iGoogle portal with your calendar plus the list of google applications and items, like CNN headlines.

In the top left there is a space for tailored Google alerts. Here the user can set google to find highly relevant articles using keywords and send them via email and feed, for instance ‘Farming prices’ or ‘House of Commons Votes’. Google alerts have a mixed reputation but the quality is improving all the time and they are used by journalists and PR companies due to their width of coverage.

The alert section on iGoogle works also by merging all the RSS feeds that you sign up to. One way of ensuring that the highest quality legal updates get to your google page is to use Bloomsbury Professional’s Online Library. It provides detailed technical analysis of new developments relevant to Bloomsbury Professional customers, including summaries of recent cases and legislation with comment on other relevant developments.

It is easy to add the Bloomsbury Professional newsfeed to your iGoogle homepage, and you can find instructions here.

It’s a great way to match the world’s leading search engine with top of the range legal updates.

Search with power

Another element of online information gathering is the way we search and what we search with. We are all used to the basic search string in Google. However, did you know that there are certain tools that allow for much more precise searches just by using a concept called Boolean logic?

This a form of algebra which is centred around three simple words known as Boolean Operators: “Or,” “And,” and “Not”. At the heart of Boolean Logic is the idea that all values are either true or false. The use of Boolean Logic even in most ordinary search boxes allows for the creation of more complex definitions and tighter results.

You can try this approach out in Google. For instance, HR managers are advised to look for candidates using the combination of And & OR by this recruitment site:

  1. Combine AND & OR inside brackets. Let’s look at the title “Marketing Manager”. Someone may also be called a Brand Manager or Marketing Director. Notice that both terms can change and combinations could be virtually limitless. Rather than utilizing a long list of ANDs amongst quotation marks (“Brand Manager” OR “Marketing Director” OR “Marketing Manager”) separate out the two words with an AND: “(Brand OR Marketing) AND (Manager OR Director)”.

Bloomsbury’s Professional’s Online Library offers, to subscribers a way of drilling down to specific case information because it uses Boolean logic to offer an Advanced search.

Advanced Searches are made from two or more ‘rows’ of information.

First row

The first row presents the following options:

  • Full text
  • Author/editor
  • Case name
  • Case date
  • Legislation title
  • Precedent

This allows you to make the first part of your Boolean search, narrowing down on the type of information you want it to search through. So, if the first string of your search is ‘Full text’, whatever term you choose will be hunted for across the complete content of the database. Likewise, if you select ‘Author, it will only search that group.

So now you are ready to implement the Boolean element, the library allows you to use the three main search terms

AND

NOT

OR

So, a full text search for ‘property’ or ‘landlords’ will find citations of both in all areas.

This allows you to search the full extent of Bloomsbury Professional’s materials, cases, commentary, legislation and precedents.

One of the advantages of a professional library is that all of these searches can be saved to create your own information ‘footprint’ storing and marking both your searches and material as you go in the ‘my searches’ and ‘my content’ section of the library.

What this means is that any very common searches you need are there for you to keep and will be updated or overlaid with new information such as case updates as they are added to the service.

Key snippets of information can also be shared on social media. This is a useful feature if, for example, you write blogs or posts for public consumption as these shared items can add weight to your piece.

Covering 24 practice areas, with instant access to content from over 160 of Bloomsbury Professional's leading titles, this is a library that practices large and small (pricing structures are adjusted according to number of users) can economically add to their information resources. Click here for more information or to sign up for a free trial.

Written by Ellie MacKenzie

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