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Summer Legal Research Tips: Cost-Effective Online Searching

Top Ten Tips for Cost-Effective Online Searching



  • The meter is running
  • Close your door
  • Turn off your phone
  • FOCUS 

2.  Know your issue

  • Never begin with a key word case search
  • Do some background research to become familiar with your topic
  • See the Secondary Sources Tab of this Guide
  • Do you know what the acronymns stand for?
  • Are there terms of art you need to look up?

3.  Write down your search statement on paper

  • Start with a plan
    • What will you do if you find too much?
    • What will you do if you find too little?

4.  When in doubt call customer service.  All three companies have 24/7 toll-free phone numbers:

  • LEXIS                   (800) 543-6862 (menu option 1)
  • Westlaw               (800) REF-ATTY
  • BloombergLaw   (888) 560-2529

5.  Pre-Filter

  • narrow down by jurisdiction
  • narrow down by type of material 

6.  Change the display order

  • Relevance may not the best way to view a list
  • Change to Date-newest first or Most Cited

7.  Too much is better than too little - Start broad and narrow down

8.  Observe the 15 minute rule of thumb

  • if you haven't found anything relevant within 15 minutes STOP
  • more time won't help
  • log off and regroup

9.  Print sparingly

10.  Understand the charges

  • No matter what the pricing plan, start with a BROAD search and stay within it.
  • Flat-rate plan or
  • Transactional


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