Legal Research Blog

 

Tip: Learn to Use Boolean Operators

The most powerful and flexible way to search for cases on Fastcase is to perform a keyword search using Boolean operators.

Boolean operators are symbols that tell a search engine how to relate keywords to one another.  For example, there are many ways to relate the two keywords Summary and Judgment.

→     Summary             AND         Judgment

This search will yield cases containing both the words Summary and Judgment.

→    Summary             OR             Judgment

This search will yield cases containing at least one of the words Summary or Judgment.

→     Summary             NOT            Judgment

This search will yield cases containing the word Summary but not the word Judgment.

→     Summary             w/5             Judgment

This search will yield cases containing the word Summary within 5 words of the word Judgment.

Fastcase’s search engine is compatible with 8 simple Boolean operators, but there’s no need to memorize them all. We display each operator along with examples right below the search box on the Advanced Caselaw Search page.

If you are new to Fastcase, a good way to learn how to use these operators is to click on one of the blue hyperlinked examples in the search tips. This will paste the search query in the example into the search box. Then you can press search to see what the results look like and compare them to the description of expected results listed in the search tips box. We are confident that with a little practice, you will become an expert in keyword searching in no time!

Tip: Jump to the Most Relevant Paragraph in a Case

Fastcase helps you search smarter by allowing you to jump to the most relevant paragraph in a case with one click.  When browsing a case, just press the M key.  Alternatively, you can click on the Jump to the most relevant paragraph link at the top of the screen.  You will automatically be directed to the paragraph of the case that is most relevant to your search terms.  Use this feature to move through your search results more efficiently and focus on the cases that are important to you.

Note:  This feature is currently only enabled when using Internet Explorer.

Tip: Highlighting Search Terms

By default, Fastcase automatically highlights each instance of all of the search terms in your query.  If you would prefer to view your case with only one of your search terms highlighted, select the relevant term from the Highlight menu in the silver/gray area above the case text.

Example:

If you search for “First Amendment” AND “free speech” every instance of the phrases First Amendment and free speech will be highlighted within each of your search results.

If you want to see your search results with the phrase First Amendment to be highlighted but not the phrase free speech, then select First Amendment from the menu next to the label “Highlight”.

Tip: Harness Authority Check’s Citation Analysis to Find Authoritative Cases Quickly

Did you know that you can use Fastcase Authority Check to help you find the most authoritative cases on your research topic? In fact, if you are not taking advantage of Authority Check’s second level of citation analysis – citations within your search results – you may be missing out on valuable information.

Follow these quick and easy steps to get the most out of Authority Check and find authoritative cases quickly.

1. Perform a search using the Advanced Caselaw Search. Make sure that the box next to “Show Number of Citations in Search Results” is checked at the bottom of the page.

2. When you get to the Results screen, you will see a column labeled “Authority Check” on the far right of the screen. Under that heading, there will be a blue hyperlink that reads “These Results.” Click on the link.

3. After you click on the link, your search results will be sorted by the number of times they have been cited by other cases within your search results. In other words, the most authoritative cases – those relied on most heavily by other cases within your search results – will be at the top of the list.

Tip: Filtering Search Results by Jurisdiction

When you generate a list of caselaw search results on Fastcase, you have the ability to filter the list to cases from just one jurisdiction.

For example, let’s say you search for “default judgment” in all Federal Appellate Courts.  You will get at least 5,800 results.

If you want to view only the decisions of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, there is no need to re-run your search in the Seventh Circuit database. Instead, just select “Federal 7th Circuit” from the Jurisdiction filter at the top, left-hand side of the screen.

Your results list will go from 5,800+ results down to the 500+ results from the Seventh Circuit.  The other cases will be temporarily hidden.

Get back to the full list by selecting “All Jurisdictions” from the drop-down Jurisdiction filter.