PacLII's new search features and interface
20 June 2006
This document outlines features of PacLII’s new search facility
(called autosearch) and other aspects of the new PacLII interface.
- No need to specify search types There is no longer any need to
specify the search type (‘Any of these words’ ‘this Boolean
phrase’, ‘this document title’ etc). Autosearch can usually
work out what type of search the user is attempting and apply the correct search
type. This should be of particular benefit to less experienced searchers, but
also help where experienced searchers forget to specify the correct search
- Previous searches and connectors still work Most searches
previously used on PacLII will still work, with the exceptions of searches for
a single phrase, and some unusual title searches (see below). You can also use
all the connectors previously used (‘and’, ‘or’,
‘near’, ‘w/10’ etc).
- Recognises searches for any words To do an ‘any of these
words’ search, just list your search terms. For example, either of the
following searches are the same, and find documents containing any of the search
terms: ‘missile bomb weapon’; or ‘missile, bomb,
weapon’. This is the default search type unless (as explained below),
autosearch recognises a search as Boolean, or for a case, or for legislation, or
for a phrase.
- Recognises connectors (Boolean searches) If you use any
connector in a search (‘and’, ‘or’, ‘near’,
‘w/10’ etc) then autosearch will automatically treat the search as a
Boolean search. If you don’t want ‘and’ or ‘or’ or
‘near’ to be treated as connectors, you must put the phrase they are
part of within double quotes (this is the same as before).
- Searching for cases It is now much easier to find just the
case (or cases) with a particular title. A search which contains ‘v’
or ‘v.’ or ‘vs’ or vs.’ or ‘re’ will
be recognised automatically as a search for a case name, and the search results
will be restricted to documents (usually cases or casenotes) containing the
phrases on either side of the ‘v’ or ‘vs’, or
immediately following the ‘re’. So, for example, the following
searches all work well: ‘Mabo v Queensland’; ‘Queensland vs
Mabo’; ‘Lenah v Australian Broadcasting’; ‘Broadcasting
Corporation vs Lenah’; ‘Re Smith’; ‘In re Smith’.
- Single phrase searches Previously, in order to search for a
phrase such as ‘privacy commissioner’ you had to first select
‘Boolean’, but you did not have to put ‘privacy
commissioner’ in double quote marks (as you do on Google). This is still
the case if you do an autosearch that uses any connectors (‘and’,
‘near’, ‘or’ etc). However, if you search for a phrase
by itself (or in a list of synonyms), you must now put it in double quotes. For
- “weapon of mass destruction”
- missile, bomb, “weapon of mass destruction”
- Autosearch cannot yet handle searching for two phrases in the same search.
Please put in a Boolean connector (eg ‘private affairs or personal
information’ will work but ‘ “private affairs”
“personal information” ’ will not).
- Use Advanced Search where needed Where autosearch cannot
recognise the type of search you want to do, you can use the Full Search Form to
specify the search type. The Full Search
Form is also used to specify limited scope searches over only some
This is only the first version of autosearch. Other types
of assistance to users are under development. This page will be updated as new
features are added.
Improved results interface and search features
The following new features are available on PacLII. We hope you
like them. Feedback is welcome and should be sent via PacLII Feedback.
New results display options
The page displaying results of any PacLII search now offers four different
methods of display, which the user can choose to use in any order. We suggest
that users experiment with the various ways in which search results can be
- By Relevance – The default results display is by order of
likely relevance to the search request, most relevant first. See ‘New
search features’ for some SINO changes affecting relevance ranking.
- By Date – The results are sorted by date order, most recent date displayed first (ie reverse chronological order). Legislation is displayed by the date the Act was passed or the Regulation made.
- By Title – The results are sorted alphabetically by the
title of the document, and displayed from a-z.
- The ‘Collapse Title’ option groups the results together
based on the first alphanumeric character in the title, that is, ‘A’
to ‘Z’ and then ‘0-9’.
- By Database – The search results are displayed grouped into
the databases on which they are located. The databases are displayed in the
order in which they appear in PacLII’s menu structure (not by number of
results found in each). To view the results from only one database, click on the
number of documents next to the name of the database (Note: to see the results
from all databases again, it is necessary to use the ‘back’ button).
- The ‘Collapse Listing | Expand Listing’ option is only available with the ‘By Database’ display.
‘Collapse Listing’ will first collapse all results into groupings of
databases by document type and jurisdiction (eg ‘Supreme Court of Vanuatu’ or ‘Court of Appeal of Vanuatu’). If used again it will
collapse the databases into ‘Vanuatu Case Law ’ etc. By doing this, all cases or
all legislation can be chosen without use of the ‘Full Search Form’. If ‘Expand Listing’ is chosen the process will then be
Other changes to the results
- More visible ‘Repeat search over:’ options – On
the right side of the ‘Search’ button on the results page, users
have a choice of searches over other collections of data, over which the same
search will be executed that has just been executed over the PacLII databases.
The options are:
- All PacLII Databases - Searches accross all PacLII databases.
- Catalog & Websearch – Searches categories
in the WorldLII Catalog, and full text of those catalogued web sites accessible
to PacLII’s web spiders; takes user to WorldLII results page.
- WorldLII Databases – Searches all databases on
the World Legal Information Institute (WorldLII) – over 650; takes user to
WorldLII results page.
- Law on Google – Converts the PacLII search into
the correct format for a Google search; adds terms to PacLII search to restrict
it to law-related materials only; executes search on Google and takes user to
Google results page.
- ‘Results per page:’ options - Where all search
results are displayed, an option on the right side allows users to choose
between displaying 10, 20, 50 (default) or 100 results per
New search features
PacLII’s SINO search engine has been re-written substantially. The
changes in Version 3.0 of SINO will have more effect on those managing
databases, but the following aspects will affect all PacLII users:
- The search language is now more compatible with Lexis, Westlaw
and Google syntax. Searches like Google style +murder -child etc work as do /10
style Westlaw/QL operators.
- Dates now work properly for sorting of results (vital for
‘By Date’ display).
- SINO now returns and sorts all results from a search, no matter
how many. A previous limit of 20,000 maximum results that could be sorted has
- All words will become searchable (not fully implemented).
However, a new smaller list of common words <http:///paclii/help/sino_common.html>
needs to be "quoted" (ie put in double quotes) before they are searchable.
- Search times are much faster. However, excessive placing of
phrases in quotation marks can lead to very slow results.
- SINO handles sorting of results internally (for relevance, date, alpha
The SINO Manual is at <http://www.austlii.edu.au/techlib/software/sino/doc/Manual.pdf