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3. Searching using World Law

3.1. What you can and can't search using World Law / DIAL

There is a search form on each page of World Law, which allows you to search by entering search terms in a window like the one below, and clicking on the 'Search' key.

 Searches are always over two sets of information:

What you can't search: There are many types of sites on the Internet that a web spider cannot access. These include commercial sites protected by passwords; certain file formats such as PDF; dynamically created pages; and sites that tell web spiders or robots that they may not enter ('robot exclusions'). For this reason, search engines cannot help you find all types of resources on the web - you need to use catalogs to find the other types of resources.

For further reading:

  •  Details of how DIAL's search engine works;
  •  Details of why search engines cannot find everything
  • Guided Tour

    3.2. Limiting search scope by catalog location - the 'in' options

    The scope of a search is limited by which page in the World Law catalog you search from. This makes it easier to do more precise searches, because you can use the structure of the catalog to narrow down which web sites you wish to search. This is an unusual and powerful feature of World Law / DIAL, but it requires understanding and careful use. This 'limited scope searching' is the default search option in World Law, so you must change it if you want to search over all web sites that World Law makes searchable. (Searches over Categories are over the whole catalog and do not have restricted scope).

     For example, if you go to the World >> Law Reform page the search window is as below.

     The default 'in' option says that the scope of the search is 'Law Reform' , which means that a search will only find pages on web sites that are indexed under the category 'Law Reform', or under any of the subcategories listed on the 'World >> Law Reform' page (or subcategories of those pages). The result should be that the 'Web pages found' for any search from this page should only list sites that have to do with law reform.

    To broaden or narrow your search scope, go to a broader or narrower page in the catalog (see examples below).

    Sometimes a limited scope search result will include some materials that are not expected (eg case law may be included in a search that is supposed to be restricted to legislation). This problem of 'leakage' is caused by the structure of some sites that the web spider is sent to, which make it impossible to distinguish case law from legislation.

    Guided Tour

    Changing the default search scope to search 'All World Law'

    However, no matter where you are in the catalog, you can still search over everything by changing the 'in' option from the default setting, and instead selecting 'All World Law', as shown below:

     Alternatively, you can simply go to the 'World' page and search from there. Searching from the 'World' page has the same effect as changing the 'in' option to 'All World Law'.

    Guided Tour

    Limited scope searching - difference between 'See' and 'See also' (@)

    As explained above under 'Browsing', links to pages for some subcategories have an '@' symbol following them. This has implications for limited scope searching, depending on whether the subcategory appears under the heading 'See Also:' or not (there is no 'See' subheading):
    Guided Tour

    Search strategies - useful tips

    Here are some suggestions about when it is useful to search over a restricted search scope:
    Guided Tour

    Stored Searches

    Many pages in World Law contain a number of Stored Searches, located in the bottom section of the page in a box with the title 'Stored Searches'. The stored searches otherwise eppear to be links to other web sites, but they are in fact pre-defined searches of World Law, each with a different search scope.

     The main advantages of these pre-defined searches over normal links are that:

    Guided Tour

    3.3. Search terms - synonyms, truncation and plurals

    Searches in World Law / DIAL will only find the words that you specify as search terms. An important thing to remember is the choice of search terms is influenced by which search option (discussed below) has been selected.
    Guided Tour

    3.4. Search options - from the 'Find' menu

    The default option is 'any of these words', which is the simplest way to search. If you want to do any other type of search, you must change this default, by holding down the mouse over 'any of these words' and selecting one of the other options shown below.

     The following five options are available from beside 'Find' on the search window:

    Important note: The search connectors used for the 'Boolean query' search option (including 'and', 'or' and 'near') cannot be used as search connectors with any of the other four options. If they are used they will either be ignored, or may distort search results. Be careful not to use 'and', 'or' and 'near' except in 'Boolean query' searches or if they are part of a phrase in a 'this phrase' search or a 'this document title' search.

     World Law uses AustLII's SINO search engine, so all of the search facilities available for searching over AustLII's Australian databases can be used to search World Law. There is Full SINO Documentation available for those who want more technical details of search functions.

    Guided Tour

    Boolean queries - Search connectors and operators

    For Boolean queries, World Law /DIAL allows the use of a wide range of search connectors, which are summarised below.
    Operator Meaning Example
    and page contains both terms  negligen* and defam*
    or page contains either of two terms  weapon or gun or firearm
    not page contains 1st term but not 2nd trust not family
    near 1st term within 50 words of 2nd disclos* near offence
    w/n or
    1st term within n words of 2nd  court w/5 jurisdiction
    pre/n 1st term must precede 2nd term by less than n words  contempt pre/3 court

    The Boolean Operators Chart gives more detailed explanations and examples of all of these search connectors.

     Always use parentheses if you use more than one type of connector in a search. For example, a search for 'licence near radio or broadcasting' will find all references to 'broadcasting' whether or not the word 'licence' is within 50 words. The correct search is 'licence near (radio or broadcasting)'. The safe rule of thumb is always to use parentheses if a search uses more than one type of connector.

    3.5. Display of search results - Categories and Web pages

    A search finds two types of results: The results of a search over the catalog is displayed first as 'Web pages found:

     To see the categories that have been found, you can either scroll down past the 50 web pages, or click on the words 'Categories in this Index'

    Only 50 ' Web pages found' and 50 'Categories' are displayed on the first page. Select ' |2| ' , ' |3| ' etc to see more web pages or more categories.

    3.6. Display of search results - relevance ranking

    Search results are displayed ranked by likely order of relevance of the items founds, as in the example below. If the first item in the list has the score '100%' this means it contains all of the search terms (3 in the example below), and otherwise has the highest occurrence of the search terms (and other factors used to measure likely relevance). All other items are then ranked pro-rata, and given an appropriate percentage score.

     The percentage score gives you a rough indication of how likely it is that the document is sufficiently relevant to your search purpose to be worth reading. A score of 90% indicates that it is very likely to be relevant, but a score of 30% means this is unlikely.

    3.7. Modifying searches

    It is easy to modify searches, because the Search Results page always displays your current search (or stored search) at the top of the page, allowing it to be modified and another search run.

    Guided Tour

    3.8. Searching a selected site

    Where World Law's web spider has been sent to a site, the icon  appears next to the catalog listing. If you click on the words 'Search' or the  icon, then you are taken to a 'Search Selected Site' page which limits the scope of the search only to the one site selected. You can use this to search sites that do not have their own search engine.


    Note: You cannot amend a search over a Selected Site from the 'Search Results' page, because the amended search will search the whole of World Law (not just the Selected Site). Go back to the page headed 'Search Selected Site', and amend the search there.

    Guided Tour

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