HeinOnline is one of our favorite resources here in the Law Library. It offers PDF versions of many great legal resources. While many students and faculty are familiar with HeinOnline and its content, they are less familiar with how to search HeinOnline. The truth is it takes some practice to learn how to search HeinOnline because its search syntax is a bit different from Lexis and Westlaw. However, once you get familiar with how to search on HeinOnline you’ll find it’s a very powerful tool.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when searching HeinOnline:

1 – Boolean operators must be in all capital letters. That means AND, OR, NOT.

2- The root expander in HeinOnline is * not !

3- Proximity searching (something I’ve written about before) is probably the most different of all the search commands. In HeinOnline, you put the terms you want close to one another in quotation marks followed by a ~ and some number. For example, “disaster legislation”~10 means you are looking for the word “disaster” within 10 words of the word “legislation.”

4- Boosting a term allows you to influence the relevancy ranking of your results list. (By the way, you can’t have your results ranked by relevance when using a terms and connectors search in Westlaw or Lexis.) So, if I have two terms, but I think one term is more important I can include a ^ followed by a number after the more important term. For example, disaster^5 AND legislation will find results with both the terms “disaster” and “legislation” in them, but will bring documents with “disaster” found more frequently to the top of my results list.

Here is a handout David Armond and I prepared for a faculty training I presented at last week. It only covers the search tips I think students and faculty will use the most. More detailed search syntax instructions are available here.