BIG little Research Tips (#10 & #11)

#10 – Limit your search by file type

This is a great tip not many people seem to know about. Using a file type limiter lets you search for PDFs or XLS or PPT. Why is this useful? Sometimes you want a brochure or white paper and those will usually be PDF. Data often resides in spreadsheets, so an XLS may be just what you are looking for. Power Points often have great graphics, charts, and contact information of the presenter. Other types you might need include images (JPG or GIF), audio (MP3) or video (MP4, MOV).  

Use this syntax when creating your focused searches: [search terms filetype:.pdf] See this examples using DuckDuckGo: refugee policy filetype:.pdf or refugee policy filetype:xls or refugee policy filetype:.ppt

Be careful, though. Google doesn’t like the dot before the file extension letters!

#11 – Limit your search by domain

One of the most useful search engine tips is to put a limit on the domains you search. Are you looking for only government information? Limit your search to .gov sites. Trying to find an academic discussion or review of a topic? Use the .edu domain. Having trouble navigating that one site’s internal search engine? Add the site to the limit at the end of your search string and you will only get results from that site.  Try searching these examples:

[climate change site:.epa.gov]

[brain scan site:harvard.edu]

[fundraising site:.org]

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BIG little Research Tips (#9)

#9. Searching for Old Web Pages

Websites change, update, and expire. Authors will often cite to pages without thinking about what happens when those URLs change, making their arguments weaker without the evidence to support them. This is known as “link rot.” The Harvard Law Review Forum published a study on link rot and found that: “Over 50% of cited links in Supreme Court opinions no longer point to the intended page. Roughly 70% of cited links in academic legal journals and 20% of all science, technology and medicine articles suffer from link rot.” (127 Harv. L. Rev. F. 176)

What do you do if you encounter a dreaded “404 Page Not Found” notice? You need a special, archival, powerful search engine. Enter the Wayback Machine. Archive.org’s Wayback Machine has to be one of the greatest innovations and tools on the Internet. Although they don’t archive every web page, only about 377 billion, there is enough that you should know how to use it. I’ve found documents there that had been removed from current versions of web sites, or URLs that have been completely eliminated.

The Wayback Machine is great for finding old government pages and documents so you can see how policies have changed from one administration to the next. They’ll often have old press releases that a company has removed from their current website. You can find URLs cited in reports that have since been eliminated completely from the original sites. It’s also a fun way to see what was on the front page of the Washington Post or CNN or your favorite site wayback in time. (See what I did there?)

But it’s not just web pages! Archive.org has video and sound recordings, images, full text e-books, and software.

Do you have a page that you want to see preserved just the way it is? Perhaps you want to save a blog post that will eventually scroll off the front page of your favorite site. You can add it to the Archive.com collection in a simple step. Save your citations and publish your article with the knowledge that the pages you cite to today will be available to your readers tomorrow or next month or in ten years. Archive.org’s Save Page Now tool is free.

Perma.cc is another fantastic tool for preserving web pages. Originally created to help law students, professors, judges and lawyers preserve the web pages they cite in their articles, decisions, and briefs it is now available to anyone. Free for academics and judicial offices, the service is even recommended in the Bluebook as an authoritative way to archive important references and citations.

Good luck with your research and have fun in the rabbit hole you’ve opened!

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BIG little Research Tips (#8)

This is part of a series of research tips to help you with Internet searching. Let me know if you have any comments or tips of your own to share! Come back to this site for more tips in the coming days and weeks.

#8. Public library databases

One of the great resources that most people with a library card have access to is their public library. (You do have a library card, right?) And within that library there are usually a handful of databases patrons can access. For free! Some may be available remotely, and others may require you to visit the building to access, but still – free! A friend of mine has a motto – “If it’s free, it’s for me!” and in this instance, it is for you, too. The public library system in my town has business databases, literature databases, and even expensive, legal specific databases Lexis and Westlaw.

Rather than rely only on the results you see from Google, DuckDuckGo, or Bing, you can access databases that are much more focused, sophisticated, and authoritative. Generally only available by expensive subscription or costly pay per use, your public library (and your local tax dollars) help pay for these valuable resources.

Graduates may also be able to access their college or university library systems as alums. Often the academic resources are more extensive than public libraries’. Relive those glory days – and nights – of research!

If you live in the DC Metro area, or ever visit, you also have access to the world’s largest library – the Library of Congress. The LOC is not just for Congress. Anyone with a valid ID can get a researcher card and then have access to all of the resources they offer. Even if you can’t physically get to the Library, you can still access many of the databases and e-resources the library provides.

A hidden gem in this town, the Library of Congress is one of the most beautiful sites in DC, too. Sitting to the east of the Capital and adjacent to the Supreme Court, I recommend a visit to the Jefferson Building. The Main Reading Room is an inspiring sight and will make you want to research.

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BIG little Research Tips (#7)

#7 – Use a Different Search Engine

This is one of my favorite tips! Sure, I use Google, but my default search engine is DuckDuckGo.  DDG has greater privacy, never tracks you, and doesn’t let other sites peek in on your searches. They also block 75% of the hidden trackers commonly found on Google. Try the same search you did in G and you’ll see a few of the same results, but get down three or four results and you’ll start to notice a difference. Often the top 5 only overlap by one or two sites.

Google will often tailor the results you see based on previous searches you did or sites you visited. Duck Duck Go does not. This is helpful if you do a lot of searches for other people and don’t want your results to be biased or slanted towards sites you may have visited doing a personal search or looking for something obscure.

Bing of course is the another big search engine and should not be discounted. Using Bing will get you different results than Google. Both companies provide relevant results, usually. But they use different indexes and different algorithms to answer your question. Plus Bing has a beautiful photo on the start up page that lets you daydream for a moment or two if you want.

Switching to smaller search engines can often help your search, too. Finding a specialized search engine focusing on a narrow topic will give you more focused results, will likely not be looking at your past searches or clicks to serve up what it thinks you want, and may get you an answer much quicker than scrolling through a results list trying to give you a little of everything. Some engines I’m thinking about are Northern Lights’ Millie, Law Firm Search Engine, or The Lens. Take a look at them and let me know if you have any specialty search engines I should know about.

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BIG little Research Tips (#5-#6)

This is the next set of research tips in an ongoing series to help you with Internet searching. Let me know if you have any comments or tips of your own to share! Come back to this site for more tips in the coming days and weeks.

#5. Search For Images

Search engines also search images and you should consider images as more than just photographs. Anything that displays information visually is an image. I will often go to an image search when I am looking for data or comparisons because graphs, charts, or tables are often displayed as images. The data within these graphs, charts, or tables don’t always come through as text, so the engine’s crawler may not find it. Think of PowerPoint presentations you’ve created. Text on slides bores audiences. A good presentation will have pictures, cartoons, and graphics to illustrate a point. Much of that good information embedded in those slides never pop up in a general text search.

Search engines will have a link to the image search on their front page, or like DuckDuckGo, from the list of results once you do a search.

Use terms like “chart” or “table” or “data” to get closer to the format you need. Compare these images when you search for a table with data about population growth versus a chart about population growth.

Be sure to use the filters (images.bing.com) and tools (images.google.com) to focus your search to exactly what you need. You can limit the search to cartoons, faces, overall color, and even usage rights so you know you are not violating anyone’s copyright when you paste that perfect image into your presentation or blog post.

Zanran.com is a search engine that pulls graphs and charts from PDF documents. A great tool if what you really need is a visualization of data. If you are just looking for stock images that are high quality and freely available for use, try using Gratisography.com, or Pixabay.com.

What’s your favorite image search database? Let me know in the comments.

#6. Search By Image

Searching by image is also referred to as reverse image searching. Copy the image, or drag and drop one into the search box, and let the algorithms figure out what you are looking at or for. Take a spin on TinEye.com as an example of a reverse image search engine.

Another great use for this search by image tool is trying to find someone’s social media profiles. A lot of people will use the same photo across platforms, so if you have a photo of the person from one site, try searching with it to find other sites they may have used it on. If you happen to find the same photo on lots of profiles, you may not be dealing with an honest person or someone who is trying to hide their real identity. Catfish, anyone?

Google Lens is a great tool! It is a mobile app image recognition tool. I used it the other day in my back yard. I had a weed growing in my bushes and was curious about what it was. A quick snap with my phone using the Lens returned what I feared – it was poison ivy! Other uses include scanning a sign in foreign language and translate it to your preferred language. There are other suggested uses, too, at the product page.

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See previous tips: 1-2, and 3-4.

BIG little Research Tips (3-4)

Part two of an ongoing series of little research tips to help you with Internet searching. Let me know if you have any comments or tips of your own to share! Come back to this site for more tips in the coming days and weeks.

#3. Go to page 10

“The best place to hide a dead body is on page two of the Google results because no one ever looks there!” *A joke I heard but I don’t remember the source (sorry! bad librarianing!).

With the seeming omniscience of search engines and the instant results, it is hard to imagine that there is any reason to go beyond the top 10 results. But if you are looking for a well rounded answer, or if you need more nuanced results, take a look at the later pages. Google and other search engines put the most popular sites at the top. Some sites have great information, but they don’t get ranked in the top because they don’t have a lot of other sites linking to them or have a lot of traffic directed to them. It can be a real treasure trove to look beyond the top and dig into the later pages.

#4. Go to page 1,000!

Want to go even deeper than the top 10 pages? Try Millionshort.com and take out the top 1,000 or more sites for your search and see what you find. MillionShort lets you remove e-commerce sites, or search only sites that provide a live chat. It’s a great way to dig in and see some lesser known sites and information.

Not finding what you need?
Contact me and I can help you find the information you need to make your clients happy.

BIG Little Research Tips

I’ve been reading Tom Peters’ book “The Little Big Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence.” It inspired me to think about little big things to pursue excellence in online searching and research.

Today I am beginning an ongoing series of posts that will help with your online research and hopefully make it more relevant and useful. Of course, should you find yourself in the position where you aren’t finding the information you think you should be finding, or if you are finding too much irrelevant info and can’t figure out how to filter out the noise, call me! (Maybe that should be the #1 tip!)

I’m not sure exactly how many tips I’ll come up with, but right now I have 50 queued up for you. I’m going to post a few at a time, so come back often to check out what’s new. They are not in order of importance, since every search is different and has a different need. Feel free to leave a comment or email if you have anything to add.

#1. Relevance Is Your Friend

Most search engines default to relevance ranking when they display the list of results to your query. Generally, the relevance ranking is pretty good. I suspect most users stay with the top few results and get at least some sort of answer to what they were looking for. If they don’t, rather than looking down the list, most people will adjust the search to get a new set of results.

What does “relevance ranking” mean? When a search engine retrieves a list of results it is doing so based on the terms you entered in the search box and how well they match up with the terms on the page it found. Sometimes it can be word for word, or some times it can be based on word stems, synonyms, or another type of mathematical algorithm. In any case, the pages found are the pages that search engine has indexed. Don’t be lulled into thinking that one search engine covers the entirety of all the web pages out there.

#2. Relevance Is Not Your Friend

Sometimes, relevance ranking distorts the results and gives you results that don’t necessarily help with your research. When you are looking for news, for example, you may want the most recent items first, not the most times your terms show up in a story. 

Maybe you need the oldest result. Perhaps there is a government report about your topic but it was written twenty years ago. Today, people still may site that report or discuss it in a blog post, but that won’t help you if you need the original source.

Maybe you are looking for something close by or local to your area, and the results keep pointing you to information from another city or area of the world. You may need to change the results from relevance (because it is not relevant to you) to location based.

Look for the settings or tools in the menu bar above your search results to adjust the way the results are displayed or what is returned at the top of the list. Depending on what database or search engine you are using, the tools may differ, so be vigilant and look under the hood.

Those are the tips for today! Check back soon for the next couple of tips.

Why call an Info Pro?

You search Google and get twenty million results – how do you know if the top results are the best results or even if Google is the best place to look?

You have a question about a company that wants to do business with you, but you are unsure of their reputation.

You want to know what people are saying about your business and your reputation.

You have a great idea for a patent, but don’t even know where to start.

Your boutique law firm is getting involved in some heavy litigation and you need to vet the best experts for your client.

These are all situations when the skills and experience of a professional researcher can help filter out the noise and dial in the right signal for you. Information Out Loud assists clients in information intensive, knowledge based businesses with periodic, recurring needs for accurate, authoritative information but lack the resources for a full time research staff.

See the About, Services, and Connect pages to get a better understanding of what I do and how I can help you.

The L O C

Today I renewed my researcher card at the Library of Congress. The largest library in the world allows any one with an interest to become an official researcher and access the collections of the Library. In addition to the millions of print materials, there are hundreds of online resources including access to databases, e-books, audio and video resources, digitized material and data. The Law Library alone has more than 2.9 million volumes for review and a collection of rare material from the founding of the nation.

(image from the Library Of Congress at https://www.loc.gov/resource/highsm.11603/)

Do you have a need for access to something that you think is at the Library of Congress? I may be able to help you. Although individuals cannot take materials from the Library, I’d be happy to assist in your research.

Why Out Loud?

People sometimes ask me about the name I chose for my business.  Information Out Loud. My answer is more personal than professional, but a mix of the two. Information because I have a nearly three decade career in information, libraries, and knowledge, so that is obvious.  Out Loud came to me after listening to the U2 song, “Zooropa.” If you know me, you know I am a long-time U2 fan – not just their music but their passion, their message, and how they approach the world we all live in.

The short answer is I want to make information out loud, visible, usable, and actionable. To find the right answer, the best data, the perfect bit of knowledge and deliver it to you so you can use it to grow your business and help your clients.

The longer answer has to do with the last lyric to Zooropa: “She’s gonna dream up a world she wants to live in. She’s gonna dream out loud.” That is what I want to do with my business.  Dream up my world that I want to live in and dream out loud. Bono commented on the song in the book U2 by U2, saying the opening was the band’s new manifesto. The band was embarking on a new phase of their career. They were evolving musically. That manifesto and the lyrics of the song strike me today as I begin my new venture. I am taking it to heart and moving forward. Information Out Loud is my world to dream up and live in, and I want to live out loud.

“It was our attempt to create a world rather than just songs and it’s a beautiful world. The opening was our new manifesto, ‘I have no compass, I have no map, and I have no reason to go back.” – Bono, U2 by U2, 2006. From <https://www.atu2.com/lyrics/songs/zooropa.html>