2 people are online

Database Searching

General Information: Who can use them?   |   Where are they?   |   Selecting the right database   |   Terms used to describe the process of database searching
Search types: Phrases, truncation and wildcards   |   Field searching
Results: Broadening and narrowing   |   Too many or not enough results


Who can use them?
You can access almost all of the databases from anywhere with an internet connection, though they may not work as well on mobile devices. Use of the Library's subscription databases is restricted to current students and staff of the University of Waikato and is for educational use only.

Where are they?
There are several options for locating databases.

  • The databases tab on Library search allows you to search for a database by name.
  • All databases the Library subscribes to are listed under subject category, including Law. The Databases page also includes a search box where you can search for a database by name. You can't search the content of databases from that box though. Use the Find A Database link which is under Key Tasks on the right of all of the Library's web pages.
  • You can also link directly to legal databases from the Law Student homepage. Look for Legal Databases under the Legal Research menu on the right side of the Law Student home page.

How do I know which one to use?
Under the title of each database in the list of legal databases you'll see a brief outline of the type of content in that database , the period covered, and whether the database provides full-text access.. This is the scope statement. You need to consider criteria such as the jurisdiction covered, the type of content, and whether the content in the database is current.

For example, the scope statement for Westlaw NZ states:

Westlaw NZ
New Zealand legal sources including New Zealand Statutes, case law and journals, legislation and commentary to precedents
and news, as well as tax information.

This video describes how to access the legal databases, who can access them,and how to decide which one to use.

Database access
Duration 4.26

  • Where you can find the databases
  • Access restrictions
  • Choosing the right database


Terms used to describe the process of database searching

These videos explain what is meant by terms such as "search templates", "connectors", etc.

Search templates
Search statements

Duration 3.0

Boolean connectors

Duration 2.58

Advanced search templates
Free text searches

Duration 3.41

Phrases, truncation and wildcards, and field searching

These videos explain how phrase searching, truncation and wildcards, and field searching work.

Using phrases
Duration 2.26

  • How to use phrases in a search statement

Duration 2.42

  • How truncation and wildcards work
  • Where to truncate

Field searching
Duration 6.46

  • Advanced search templates
  • Field searching


Your first set of results may not be exactly what you want. Sometimes there may be too many, and they're too general, or there are none or not enough or even none at all. These tips may help to solve the problem.

Broadening and narrowing

  • one or two keywords > a broad search > more results.
  • more keywords > a narrow search > fewer results.

Too many results

  • Add one or two more keywords (narrowing)
  • A phrase search could also be useful: consider whether some keyword combinations would be better as phrases. e.g., "constitutional law " rather than constitution and law

No enough / no results

  • Check that you're using the right database
  • Remove (or change) some keywords (broadening)
  • Check for spelling / typing errors
  • Are the terms appropriate for the database content?
  • Use truncation: possess! rather than possession
  • BTW - databases do not understand text language!