How to Improve Your eDiscovery Search Queries

Using the right search terms and conducting successful eDiscovery search queries is becoming more difficult every day with the emergence of complex data. In large data banks, tiny changes in search terms can lead to vastly different search results.

When done right, search queries can efficiently and accurately help you find relevant documents, thus saving your valuable time. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to your search query problems, there are a few practices you can adopt.

Watch Out for Noise Words

Noise words are pesky terms that occur so commonly that they’re absolutely useless in searches. Most eDiscovery software will not index noise words like “the” or “it”. So, if you’re searching for something like “pick it,” your search might fall apart.

Almost every software will allow you to alter the existing index or create a new one if needed.

Parse Search Terms

By parsing long search strings into more digestible forms, you can create much more effective eDiscovery search queries. When you have short strings or individual terms, you can easily identify what part of your query is responsible for the hit count. It allows you to adjust the population of the data by tinkering with the terms you want.

Be Careful with Searching Numbers

Using numbers in eDiscovery search queries can often land you with some results you did not expect or want. A common numerical search query is for patent numbers like 987654321. If you don’t quote this properly, you could end up with some very skewed results.

Also, note that searching for “1,000” can give results like “1,000,000” or “2532.”.

Look After Metadata

Metadata is vital to conducting effective eDiscovery search queries. Let’s just take dates as an example. An ESI could have dates for when it was created, sent, modified, received, accessed, etc., and they can all help you in your search.

If a piece of ESI wasn’t properly collected, you might find no results for the dates you put in. Why? Because the metadata has been deleted.

QC the Results!

Congrats! You’ve completed the search terms report after a lot of research. But your work is not yet finished. Quality control needs to be a big part of the whole search process.

Get the obvious things out of the way first, such as search terms that return errors. Turn your attention to other red flags, like terms with zero or too many hit counts. You could expect high hit counts for broad terms, but a second look never hurt anyone. It could indicate a problem with noise words.

For terms that have zero hits, you need to ensure that their logic is correct and representative of what you want to search for.


eDiscovery search queries have the power to drastically reduce review time and accelerate discovery processes. Searching usually consumes a lot of time alongside the review. By streamlining your search queries with the best practices, you can improve your workflow and save money. 

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