How to browse and search for information on ZimLII



Browsing for a judgment works best if you know either or a combination of a case name, judgment date, and the court in which a judgment was handed down.  All judgments’ databases are arranged alphabetically and chronologically.



This is a full-text search engine. Researchers have to think carefully and input search terms (words and phrases) that are most likely to appear in the body of the document (judgment) the user is trying to retrieve. The best words (or phrases) to choose are those which are unique or particularly distinctive and are, of course, relevant to the subject matter of your query.


Search results

Search results will list all relevant cases, starting with the document scoring the highest relevance. Search results are ranked according to the appearance of the search term in, in order of importance, the title, headings, emphasized text, and the body of the text of a document. If you are searching for a case by its case name, your first search result will likely be the case with that title, instead of another case, citing the one you are searching for.

The search results page lists all relevant documents. The searched keyword(s) or phrase(s) are bolded in a snippet below each search result. You will also see flynotes (where such are available) in the search results, alongside key information regarding the document you are researching.



On search results page users can filter documents by collection, court, judgment date and even subject matter (coming soon!).


Advanced search techniques

Terms and phrases

A query is broken up into terms and operators. There are two types of terms: Single Terms and Phrases.

A Single Term is a single word such as "crime" or "tort".

A Phrase is a group of words surrounded by double quotes such as "ultra vires".

Multiple terms can be combined together with Boolean operators to form a more complex query (see below).



Apache SOLR supports single and multiple character wildcard searches within single terms (not within phrase queries).

To perform a single character wildcard search use the ? symbol.

To perform a multiple character wildcard search use the * symbol.

The single character wildcard search looks for terms that match that with the single character replaced. For example, to search for "text" or "test" you can use the search:


Multiple character wildcard searches look for 0 or more characters. For example, to search for work, worker or workforce, you can use the search:


You can also use the wildcard searches in the middle of a term.

wom*n (will search for woman and women)

Note: You cannot use a * or ? symbol as the first character of a search.


Fuzzy search

Apache SOLR supports fuzzy searches based on the Levenshtein Distance, or Edit Distance algorithm. To do a fuzzy search use the tilde, "~", symbol at the end of a Single word Term. For example to search for a term similar in spelling to "roam" use the fuzzy search:


This search will find terms like foam and roams.


Proximity searches

Apache SOLR supports finding words are within a specific distance away. To do a proximity search use the tilde ~ symbol at the end of a Phrase. For example to search for a "public" and "covid" within 10 words of each other in a document use the search:

“public covid"~10

Boosting a term

Apache SOLR provides the relevance level of matching documents based on the terms found. To boost a term use the caret ^ symbol with a boost factor (a number) at the end of the term you are searching. The higher the boost factor, the more relevant the term will be.

Boosting allows you to control the relevance of a document by boosting its term. For example, if you are searching for

Compensation dismissal

and you want the term "compensation" to be the more relevant keyword, boost it using the symbol (no space between the term and the special symbol) along with the boost factor next to the term. You would type:

compensation^4 dismissal

This will make documents with the term compensation appear more relevant. You can also boost Phrase Terms as in the example:

"Compensation for dismissal"^4 "labour law"

By default, the boost factor is 1. Although the boost factor must be positive, it can be less than 1 (e.g. 0.2)


Boolean operators

Boolean operators allow terms to be combined through logic operators. Lucene supports AND+ORNOT and - as Boolean operators (Note: Boolean operators must be ALL CAPS).

The OR operator is the default conjunction operator. This means that if there is no Boolean operator between two terms, the OR operator is used. The OR operator links two terms and finds a matching document if either of the terms exists in a document. This is equivalent to a union using sets. The symbol || can be used in place of the word OR.

To search for documents that contain either "copyright infringement" or just "copyright" use the query:

"Copyright infringement" copyright


"Copyright infringement" OR copyright



The AND operator matches documents where both terms exist anywhere in the text of a single document. This is equivalent to an intersection using sets. The symbol && can be used in place of the word AND.

To search for documents that contain "copyright infringement" and "copyright violation" use the query:

"copyright infringement" AND "copyright violation"

Required operator +

The + or required operator requires that the term after the + symbol exist somewhere in the field of a single document.


To search for documents that must contain "copyright" and may contain "infringement" use the query:

+ copyright infringement


The NOT operator excludes documents that contain the term after NOT. This is equivalent to a difference using sets. The symbol can be used in place of the word NOT.


To search for documents that contain "copyright infringement" but not "copyright violation" use the query:

"copyright infringement" NOT "copyright violation"

Note: The NOT operator cannot be used with just one term. For example, the following search will return no results:

NOT "copyright infringement"

Prohibit operator -

The or prohibit operator excludes documents that contain the term after the symbol.

To search for documents that contain "copyright infringement" but not "copyright violation" use the query:

"Copyright infringement" -"copyright violation"


Apache SOLR supports using parentheses to group clauses to form sub queries. This can be very useful if you want to control the boolean logic for a query.

To search for either "copyright exception" or "open access" and "fair use" use the query:

(“copyright exception” OR “open access”) AND “fair use”