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You are here: BAILII >> About BAILII >> Help >> Search Help
If you've never used a "search engine" before you can have SINO do most of the work for you. A search engine is a computer program that presents you with a list of documents that match criteria you specify. Your criteria is in the form of "show me all documents that have the words X, Y and Z in them." You can narrow the criteria, for example: "show me documents from Scotland with the words X, Y and Z in them."
The important thing to note is that BAILII will return to you a list of documents that contain the words (or phrases) that you specify. Therefore you must choose your search words carefully. You can ask BAILII to "relevance rank" the results (this is the default), which means that the best matches will appear at the top of the list. However you will achieve best results when searching for distinctive words or phrases.
After choosing appropriate or distinctive words to search for, type them in to the search form. Then decide what kinds of documents you are interested in. There are two types:
These are documents that are located on BAILII and mainly contain British and Irish primary (legislation and case law) materials and secondary materials.
World Law or Other British and Irish Law Documents (non-BAILII)
These are documents that are located on other peoples servers, but that contain significant and valuable legal content. They are not specifically limited to Britian and Ireland (but you can ask BAILII to only return British and Irish material).
When ready, press Search. A list of documents will be returned to you. You can use Back on your browser to return to the search screen in order to refine searches. One option you'll notice on the search forms is Boolean query. It is explained below.
If you have used one of the popular on-line legal database systems (or even if you haven't) you probably do not need to learn anything new. Alternatively, if you know a bit about text searching, you might want jump to the Boolean Operators Chart. Otherwise, read on...
When you do a Lucy search, you are fundamentally searching for documents which contain some words or phrases. If you can come up with a phrase which you think is distinctive enough, just type it in and hit the return key! This will find all documents containing the exact phrase you have entered. If you want to find documents with more than one word or phrase, you use operators.
If you want more than one phrase or word to appear in the retrieved
documents, put an and between them. For example, to find documents
containing the phrase "moral rights" as well as the word
"copyright", you would type:
"moral rights" AND copyright.
If, on the other hand, you want to find one term and/or another one, put an OR between them. For example, to find stuff which contains the words "treaty", "convention" or "international agreement" you would search for: "treaty OR convention OR international agreement". If you wanted to, you could even put these two searches together - as in: "treaty OR convention OR international agreement AND moral rights AND copyright".
For more information see the full Lucy documentation or Boolean Operators Chart.
To limit a search to a particular database (eg England and Wales High Court Decisions only) on BAILII, use the Full Search Form.
To limit a search to a particular category in World Law, go to World Law, select the category using the links, and type your search there. There is no "full search form" equivalent, because there are thousands of potential "databases".
To search a particular web site, find the web site in the World Law index, and click "search site" next to the sites link. Now your search will be over just that site. All the standard BAILII searching tips apply.
For information on boolean operators, see Boolean Operators Chart. For more information on Lucy, see Full Lucy Documentation.