Canadian Legal Research Blog

CanLII, connectors, and CAPITALS

The CanLII Beta includes a welcome change in search syntax. Once the Beta is implemented, it will not be necessary to capitalize search commands (and, or, not, exact) in your CanLII search queries.

For example, a query such as damages /5 punitive or aggravated run in the CanLII Beta will recognize or as a connector, and look for the word damages within 5 words of either punitive or aggravated. This query would be rejected in the current version of CanLII unless OR was capitalized.

The EXACT command, which turns off the automatic stemming function on CanLII, is also recognized in the CanLII Beta in lower case. For example, a search on CanLII for accountant will normally also retrieve documents containing account and various other forms of that word. But a search for exact(accountant) will retrieve only documents where that exact word appears. Think carefully before using the EXACT command. In this example it would also eliminate documents where accounting or accountants appeared, unless the exact term accountant also appeared in the document.

If you are used to capitalizing these commands on CanLII, it won’t do any harm to continue capitalizing them after the CanLII Beta is implemented. The new search engine will recognize them as commands in either upper or lower case.

There are many search engines used by legal researchers where capitalization continues to be necessary in order for a word to be recognized as a search command. For example:

  • Google requires OR to be capitalized.
  • Hein Online requires AND, OR and NOT to be capitalized.
  • Irwin Law ebrary requires AND, OR, NOT and WITHIN to be capitalized.

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