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A boolaen NOT operator can be used to exclude documents which you’ve already looked at in previous searches.
Excluding documents will save you time because you won’t have to look at documents which you’ve already looked at.
Frequently, you’ll perform a search, then you’ll realize one of your search terms should be called something else. Then you do another search with the better search term when keeping the rest of the search query the same.
In this situation you can improve efficiency by replacing the search term – but then using a NOT boolean operator in front of the replaced search term – to exclude documents with the replaced search term.
The use of the NOT boolean operator reduces your work – because you don’t have to cover the ground you’ve already covered. You don’t have to look at the documents with the replaced search term. This works best if you’ve looked through a majority – or all of the documents – with the replaced search term.
Below, this is explained with a real world example – and then generically with variables.
You have to find a case with elements of breach of contract and supplemental jurisdiction.
So you search for: “breach of contract” AND “supplemental jurisdiction”
Then you realize that your search would be better if you used the word noncompliance instead of “breach of contract” – because when you are looking through the cases – the best cases which describe what you are looking for used the word noncompliance instead of breach of contract.
You’ve looked through all of the cases from the search results for: “breach of contract” AND “supplemental jurisdiction.”
Therefore an efficient subsequent search would be: noncompliance AND “supplemental jurisdiction” ANDNOT “breach of contract”
That search is more efficient than: noncompliance AND “supplemental jurisdiction.” The reasoning being – that if you’ve looked at cases which include “breach of contract” AND “supplemental jurisdiction” – and then you search for noncompliance AND “supplemental jurisdiction” that search will return cases with noncompliance AND “breach of contract” AND “supplemental jurisdiction.” You’ve already looked at all the cases with “breach of contract” AND “supplemental jurisdiction.” There is no reason to look at those cases again. Therefore, you can exclude those cases already looked at by using a NOT boolean operator in front of the replaced search term. You want to look at cases with noncompliance AND “supplemental jurisdiction” but you don’t want to look at cases with “breach of contract” – you’ve looked at those cases. Therefore, a search query of noncompliance AND “supplemental jurisdiction” ANDNOT “breach of contract” – prevents you from looking at cases which were already looked at.
You search for the terms X and Y. And you look through all the documents in the search results for X and Y.
Then you want to search X and Z.
Some of the documents in the search results for X and Y may overlap with the search results of X and Z. There could be results for X AND Y AND Z – and probably are.
But, it’s wasted time to look at a document which is X AND Y AND Z – because you’ve looked at all the documents for the search of X AND Y. In the original search results for X AND Y, the documents could have included documents with X AND Y AND Z. You didn’t make any reference to Z, therefore documents with Z could have been in the results.
Therefore, a more efficient subsequent search is X AND Z ANDNOT Y.
With the search of X AND Z ANDNOT Y, you will only have to look at the documents with X AND Z - without any results that include Y. You don’t need to look at results with Y because – you’ve looked at all the results of X AND Y – therefore looking at the results of X AND Y AND Z would be redundant (X AND Y AND Z results were looked at in the X AND Y search, if they were in there).
You will be saving the time of not looking at the results of X AND Y AND Z again.
This may seem small but this can save time if you have hundreds or thousands of search results to look through.
This technique works best if you’ve looked through all the results for X AND Y – because if you exclude Y in a subsequent search – you may miss a good result with Y in it – so looking through all the X AND Y results is best. Although, many times this technique can be used even if you don’t look through all the results for X AND Y – because you will be saving time by narrowing the results and increase the probability of finding a good result overall. By increasing the probability of finding good results – over time – then your legal research will give better results.
If you haven’t looked through all the X AND Y results, this technique doesn’t make sense if for your subsequent search you think that the combination of X AND Y AND Z will give better results than just X AND Y. If all the results from the X AND Y search are not reviewed, the switch of X AND Y to X AND Z ANDNOT Y as your search will be when you think that Z is a better search term than Y – and you can forego looking at results with Y anymore .
The benefits of this technique, also add up if you do a series of sequential searches – and whittle away at documents related to an important search term.
X is important – you want to search every document which includes the word X – or at least a lot of X. But you want to do it efficiently - starting with the most important secondary search term and not repeating what you've already looked at (you may not have enough time to look at all of the documents with X so you want to search the documents which you guess are the best, first).
So you think X AND Y is the best to search. Then think X AND Z is the next best. Then X AND W. Then X AND V.
The series of searches will be:
X AND Y
X AND Z ANDNOT Y
X AND W ANDNOT Y ANDNOT Z
X AND V ANDNOT Y ANDNOT Z ANDNOT W
X ANDNOT V ANDNOT Y ANDNOT Z ANDNOT W (to finish off everything else)
This way, you keep on looking at documents with the important term of X – and go through the other terms. You will not be repeating work of looking at documents which you’ve already looked at, based on the secondary terms related to your core term of X. This makes a difference overtime – you’re increasing efficiency by the time saved from not reviewing the excluded documents - but starting with the best secondary terms in case you run out of time and can't finish looking at all the documents with the core/important search term.
If you are a trademark attorney – look at the Search Summary under the documents in the TSDR. This technique of using sequential searches is used – with the use of excluding previous results – in a similar fashion of this NOT boolean operator technique.
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