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9. World Law Search - Full text remote search for law

World Law Search implements the targeted web spider. About 500 MB of targeted sites have been indexed to date, providing searches over about 50,000 pages. Because Project DIAL was used to test the web spider, targeting until now has been largely limited to legislation and legislation-related sites, and to indexes of law on the web. The targeted web spider will be used both in relation to Australian legal materials and to create various collections of international materials such as a world Indigenous Law Library, world Treaties Library, and world Library of case law. These searchable international collections will then become integral parts of other AustLII projects, such as the Reconconciliation and Social Justice Library on indigenous law.

Interface and search language

World Law Search uses the SINO search engine to search over all material indexed by the targeted web spider. From the World Law Search interface shown below, searches may be entered using boolean and proximity operators and truncation.

The World LawSearch interface, with `Advanced (Boolean Ranked)' selected

Two types of search/display options are provided:

Libraries - more precise searches

All remote sites which are made searchable by World Law Search will be categorised (at the time the web spider is sent to index them) into a `Library', a subset of all of the searchable content. Two initial Libraries have been created, the Legislation Library for DIAL (which is the default search scope for DIAL Search), and the Law Indexes Library for World Law Search. Other content has not yet been categorised into a Library. All of the searchable content (whether or not in a specific Library as yet) is searchable under the All Libraries option (which is the default option for World Law Search).

`Law Indexes Library' selected

The value of the Legislation Library is obvious: users who are only looking for legislative models on a particular subject can restrict their search to this Library.

The value of the Internet Indexes Library is that it allows searches in relation to a topic or country that find the precise pages of links in the best Internet law indexes that deal with the topic or country, so that users do not have to go to the `front page' of each major index in order to determine, for example whether the Library of Congress or Lexadin or FindLaw has a page for Malaysia. This is illustrated by the first 10 items of 39 found in a search for `Malaysia':

Other Libraries to be created include Law Reform, Law Journals, International Agreements, Courts & Case Law, Indigenous Law, Industrial Law and Privacy Law. Libraries on specific subject will usually be created only in order to play a part in other projects. The result will be a valuable choice of Libraries to allow more specific searching for all users.

Other proposed forms of search limitation

A number of other methods of limiting the scope of searches are being implemented in order to provide greater precision in search results.

Limiting searches to a particular database

World Law Search already has the capacity to limit searches to materials from particular sites, and this has been implemented in a number of embedded searches in World Law Index. This function allows World Law Search to be used to search specific sites which have no search engine of their own, or have a search engine which does not have the same features as the SINO search engine used for DIAL Search.

An enhancement of this approach, which will allow users to select any site which is searchable in DIAL Search and search only that site, is that the button in World Law Index which indicates that a site is searchable in World Law Search will also be used to take the user to World Law Search with the subsequent search scope limited only to that site.

Limiting searches to a country domain

Also under development is an option on the World Law Search form which will allow a user to limit the scope of a search to sites located in a particular country, by use of that country's two letter country domain identifier (zm for Zambia, vn for Vietnam, tr for Turkey etc). It will be very useful to be able to search, say, over all law sites located in China, or in India.

When used in combination with limiting scope by Libraries, this will give a very precise form of searching (eg `all Canadian legislation' or `all Australian law reform materials'), but one which is broader than searching a single site, and does not require the user to know in advance which sites exist.

Limiting searches by language of documents

As the range of non-English materials searchable in DIAL Search increases, it is likely to become valuable to be able to limit searches to materials in a particular language. This will probably be implemented by the indexer indicating the language of non-English materials at the time of adding them to World Law Search, with an option for users to exclude or include materials in particular languages.

Display of search results

Results are displayed as shown below. Items are ranked in order of likely relevance. The user is give the option to repeat the search over a number of other systems.

Proposed improvements to the display of search results

The present method of displaying results relies upon the remote site attaching informative titles to its HTML pages, as it is these titles that are displayed. While most sites do achieve this to a reasonable degree (as can be seen from the above example), some sites fail to provide any title at all, so that only the URL of the site can be displayed in default (eg item 11 above). This is not informative enough, so a number of alternatives are under consideration. One is to display the first 50 words or so of the document, similarly to what is done in Alta Vista. A second is to include the name of the database (added during the indexing process) from which each entry comes, after the display of the title, so it is at least easier to recognise which countries and systems particular items are from. These choices have significant processing overheads, and we are concerned not to unduly slow the delivery of search results.

Further utilisation of database and Library headings will make possible additional display options which allow search results to be displayed grouped by database of origin rather than by relevance ranking, in either long form or short form[41].

Finding law about a country

One particularly effective use of World Law Search is to use it to find starting points for research concerning the laws of a named country. Because the relevance ranking tends to give short documents and documents that use a search term in a title, many of the internet law indexes that have a separate page for that country will appear near the top of the list, so the user can they quickly review existing intellectual law indexes for that country. Selecting `Repeat this search over DIAL links' will find the entries concerning the country in AustLII's index.

First 10 of 48 search results for `fiji*' over all Libraries

[41] These display options are currentl y avaialable on AustLII as Boolean (Short Results) and Boolean (Long Rssults)

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