Some firms are lucky enough to have librarians who assist with research projects, and others offer access to sophisticated services that can help accommodate crazy (or even simple) requests. Sometimes, though, it’s just you, Google and a deadline.
What would you do if one of your attorneys asked you to find the phone number of the office from which this picture was taken? Read that again. I’m not talking about finding the phone number of the building in the picture…I’m talking about the building where the photographer stood while taking the picture. The one that you don’t see.
If asked for that information, you might roll your eyes, question the attorney’s sanity, tell them that it’s an impossible request and move to the next item on your to-do list. But what if it isn’t impossible? John Tedesco, Investigative Reporter for the San Antonio News-Express was asked this very question by Dan Russell, a research scientist at Google…and learned how to find the answer. According to Tedesco and Russell, it’s all about paying attention to small details and learning how to make the most of Google’s smart searches and less-publicized search tools. Here are some of Russell’s suggestions for more effective searches:
- Don’t bother typing AND in your search queries. Google treats it like any other word. But OR in all caps actually works. OR is great for finding synonyms and boilerplate language. Typing “Smith denied” OR “Smith claimed” OR “Smith argued” will find more pertinent websites about the controversy involving Smith.
- Limit the time frame. If you’re looking for a court decision or piece of industry news from a particular date, you can restrict your results to web pages published within a specific time frame. The filter by date option appears on the left-hand side of the search results page under “Show search tools.”
- Restrict your search to a specific website. The search operator site:[url] restricts your search to that particular website, and it’s one of the most useful searches out there. For example, if you want to search Law360 for information on a particular company, enter: Company Name X site:[law360.com] into the Google search bar. The results are automatically filtered for you.
- Think like a reporter. What do you know, and how can that information help you find what you need to know? Tedesco says, “A big part of a reporter’s job is knowing where to find information. Which state agency regulates the issue you’re interested in? How might that information be documented? Who would know more about the issue?”
- Search and analyze public data. Use Google Public Data Explorer to find information and charts from sources as diverse as the U.S. Census Bureau, World Bank and World Resources Institute.
- Use what you’ve got. I know – you’re still wondering about the phone number of the office building, right? Russell solved the riddle by looking closely at the picture and seeking out details that might inform his search. For the answer, click here.
For more amazing Google search tips, click here for Tedesco’s entire article.