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Legal Research Process


How will an algorithm handle search terms you enter? Will it correct for spelling? Will it supply variations, like family or families? Will it search for synonyms? How does it handle abbreviations like ACA? Does it broaden too much or too little?

Devising search terms require strategizing because words are:

  • politicized: resources may intentionally use or avoid certain phrases for political reasons
    • ex: illegal immigrant, undocumented immigrant
    • ex: abortion, pro-choice, pro-life, anti-choice, anti-abortion
    • ex: fracking
  • too old: most common with primary sources that haven't been updated because political process to do so is so difficult/logistically a low priority
    • ex: excising moron from USC
    • ex: excising negro from military code
    • ex: marijuana variant spellings
  • too new: object at hand is too new to have settled terminology
    • self-driving/en cars (SDC) or automobiles
    • driverless car or automobile or motor vehicles
    • autonomous vehicles (AV)
    • automated motor vehicles
  • disagreement between disciplines (ex: domestic violence/family violence/IPV/abuse)
  • technical vs. lay usage (ex: fracking)