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Legal Databases How-to Search: LexisNexis Academic

Search tips and techniques for LexisNexis Academic, Westlaw, HeinOnline, and ProQuest Congressional

Introduction

LexisNexis Academic contains the full-text of a variety of legal information:

  • Federal & State Cases
  • Shepard’s Citations (to verify whether your case/statute is still good law) (SEE BOX RIGHT)
  • Landmark Cases
  • Federal Statutes, Codes, & Regulations
  • State Statutes, Codes, & Regulations
  • Law Reviews
  • Legal Reference
  • Patents
  • Tax Law
  • International Legal Sources, both primary and secondary

LexisNexis also contains extensive news (domestic and foreign) and business resources.

Find a Case - Federal & State

Using Easy Search
  • Click US Legal
  • Select “Federal & State Cases”
  • You can search by Citation or by Terms
    • By Citation
      • Enter citation in search box
      • Precise citation format is essential
      • Click “Citation Help” to locate correct formats
      • Click Search
    • By Terms
      • Enter search terms
      • Select a jurisdiction (e.g., you may select ALL Federal & State Cases or scroll to narrow to a single State, Court, or Circuit)
      • Click Search
Using Power Search
  • Permits searching using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • Click US Legal
  • Select “Federal & State Cases”
  • Select jurisdiction (e.g., ALL Federal & State Cases or scroll to narrow)
  • Click “Edit in Power Search”
  • Enter search terms using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • Click Search
Using Sources Heading
  • Click Sources
  • Click “Browse Sources”
  • Select “United States” for country (page will refresh)
  • Select a Region (select ALL Regions or scroll to narrow) (page will refresh)
  • Select “Cases” folder
  • Select the Courts and/or Circuits you wish to search
  • Click “OK-Continue”
  • Enter search terms using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • Click Search

Find a Statute - Federal & State

Searching for FEDERAL Statutes, Codes, & Regulations:


Using Easy Search

  • Click US Legal
  • Select “Federal Statutes, Codes, & Regulations
  • You can search by Citation, by Terms, or Browse Table of Contents (TOC)
    • By Citation
      • Enter a citation (e.g., 5 uscs sec 5901)
      • Select Citation from the drop down box
      • Click Search
      • Precise citation format is essential. Citation format may be found by clicking on the “i in a circle” next to a source & looking at Cite under Segment Descriptions
    • By Terms
      • Enter terms in search line
      • Select one or more sources (e.g., Annotated US Code, US Constitution, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Register)
      • Click Search
    • By Table of Contents (TOC)
      • Click on “Browse”
      • Expand TOC sections by clicking on “+”

Using Power Search

  • Permits searching using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • From Easy Search page, select one or more sources (e.g., Annotated US Code, US Constitution, Code of Federal Regulations, Federal Register)
  • Click “Edit in Power Search”
  • Enter search terms using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • Click Search

Searching for STATE Statutes, Codes, & Regulations:


Using Easy Search

  • Click US Legal
  • Select “State Statutes, Codes, & Regulations”
  • You can search by Citation, by Terms, or Browse Table of Contents (TOC)
    • By Citation
      • Enter a citation (e.g., for a California Health & Saf Code statute 1367.25)
      • Select Citation from the drop down box
      • Select a State (e.g., California) from the drop down box
      • Click Search
      • Precise citation format is essential. Citation format may be found by clicking on the “i in a circle” next to a source & looking at Cite under Segment Descriptions
    • By Terms
      • Enter terms in search line
      • Select one or more sources (e.g., Constitution, Statutory Code, & Administrative Code)
      • Click Search
    • By Table of Contents (TOC)
      • Click on “Browse”
      • Expand TOC sections by clicking on “+”

Using Power Search - Single States

  • Permits searching using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • Click US Legal
  • Select “State Statutes, Codes, & Regulations”
  • From Easy Search page, click on “Edit in Power Search”
  • Retain all sources or remove those you do not wish to search by clicking the “Remove” link
  • Enter search terms using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • Click Search

Using Power Search - All State Codes, Constitutions, Court Rules, & Advanced Legislative Services (ALS)

  • Note: Coverage will vary with jurisdiction
  • From Easy Search page, click “Search All State Codes in Power Search”
  • Enter terms
  • Click Search

Find a Law Review

You can use Easy Search or Power Search
  • Click US Legal
  • Click Law Reviews
    • Easy Search
      • Enter search terms > select topic or leave blank to search ALL Law Reviews/Journals > click Search
    • Power Search
      • From Easy Search page click “Edit in Power Search” > enter terms using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language > click Search

Find a Legal Reference

American Jurisprudence (aka AmJur, a legal encyclopedia)

  • Click US Legal
  • Click Legal Reference
  • You can search by Terms or by Table of Contents (TOC)
    • By Terms
      • Enter search terms
      • Select American Jurisprudence
      • Click Search
    • By Table of Contents (TOC)
      • Click “Browse”
      • Expand sections by clicking on “+”

Treatises or Legal News

  • Click Sources
  • Click “Browse Sources”
  • Select United States for country (page will refresh)
  • Select a Region (select ALL Regions or scroll to narrow) (page will refresh)
  • Select “Treatises” folder or “Legal News” folder
  • Select sources you wish to search
  • Click “OK-Continue”
  • Enter search terms using Terms & Connectors or Natural Language
  • Click Search

Search Techniques

LexisNexis is a full-text database and searching it can sometimes bring up a large amount of results (often irrelevant results). To better refine your search, the following search techniques are helpful.

  1. and, or, not work as they do for other databases
  2. An asterisk (*) replaces one letter, can be used more than once in a word, and can be used anywhere EXCEPT as the first letter of a word. For example, searching on the term wom*n will locate records containing both woman and women
  3. An exclamation mark (!) replaces more than one letter at the end of a search term. You can only use this symbol once in any word. For example, searching on the term immigra! will locate records containing the terms immigrant and immigration.
  4. W/n to join words and phrases that express parts of a single idea or to join closely-associated ideas. n = any number up to 255. In general:
    1. W/3 - W/5: words will appear in approximately the same phrase
    2. W/15: words will appear in approximately the same sentence
    3. W/50: words will appear in approximately the same paragraph
  5. w/p and w/s search for documents with your search terms either within the same paragraph or within the same sentence
  6. Note: LexisNexis automatically includes plural forms of most words when performing a search. You don't need to use wildcards for plurals.

For complete information, check out the advanced (Boolean) and Natural Language links to the LexisNexis Academic wiki below.

Shepardizing

Shepardizing is the process whereby you verify if the relevant case/statute you have found is still good law. It is very important that you shepardize your cases/statutes.

Shepardizing a CASE

From Shepards:

  1. Enter the citation.
  2. Click "CHECK"
  3. Citations to any references to your case in state and federal courts, law review articles and periodicals, treatises, briefs, motions, and pleadings will be listed. NOTE: Our subscription does not give us access to all documents however, you can use the citation to find references in print or other databases.
  4. Use the legend located at the bottom of every page to interpret the signals. See below for a screenshot of the shepards signals.

From the case entry: 

  1. Once you find a relevant case, click the "Shepards" link at the top left of the page. (see screenshot below)
  2. Citations to any references to your case in state and federal courts, law review articles and periodicals, treatises, briefs, motions, and pleadings will be listed. NOTE: Our subscription does not give us access to all documents however, you can use the citation to find references in print or other databases.
  3. Use the legend located at the bottom of every page to interpret the signals. See above for a screenshot of the shepards signals.

Shepardizing a STATUTE

Unfortunately, it is not possible to shepardize a statute via LexisNexis Academic. However, there is an alternative.

  1. Search for the statute in the main Legal section of LexisNexis Academic. (For Example, Cal Health & Saf Code § 1367.25)
  2. Scroll to the bottom of the entry, if there has been judicial action on the statute, it will be listed under "NOTES OF DECISIONS." If there are no "Notes of Decisions" then the statute has not be challenged in court. (See screenshot for example.)