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Lexis and Westlaw Search Syntax Comparison and Cheat Sheet

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While playing around with our newly installed OSB BarBooks database and came across this mysterious Boolean search: variable: 4 and weights:7

While waiting for the answer to reveal itself, I went off to catch up with my law library blogs and ran across this excellent research tip post at the KCCLL (King County Law Library) Klues blog:

“Cheat sheet” comparing Lexis and Westlaw search syntax Research Tips

It links to:

LexisNexis and Westlaw Features Compared, from the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law Library.

[That “variable” search means:

When site search sorts search results after a search, by default all words in a request count equally in counting hits. However, you can change this by specifying the relative weights for each term in your search request, like this:

apple:5 and pear:1

This request would retrieve the same documents as apple and pear but, site search would weight apple five times as heavily as pear when sorting the results.

In a natural language search, site search automatically weights terms based on an analysis of their distribution in your documents. If you provide specific term weights in a natural language search, these weights will override the weights site search would otherwise assign
.”]