The deep or “invisible” Web consists of those resources that, while accessible over the Web, are not subjected to search engine indexing. Imagine the sites you have visited that have a search box on them. If the search retrieves Web pages, those are probably in Google or Bing. But if it’s returning directory listings or other information that comes from a database, it may not be.
I came across Complete Planet in a list of “alternative” search engines. You can search Complete Planet’s directory of databases for relevant matches or you can browse by topic. The “Law” category has over 1100 entries. It contains common sites, like Findlaw or Lawyer.com, but not necessarily a lot of high quality ones. The site may only be a demo for its deep web search owner, BrightPlanet, as most entries in the legal category haven’t been indexed since 2004, and a number of the ones I clicked were no longer there. However, it may be worth noting since it covers a wide variety of topic areas and might help you to identify a source, even if the directory entry is no longer there.
This change in service from DeepDyve caught my eye. They have provided a method of reading “deep Web” content for awhile. Normally, you would do a search and pay to read the article it unearths. Now, you can search DeepDyve and you have five minutes to read.
DeepDyve is light on legal information but its depth in academic works offers a wealth of social science research that may be applicable to cases. Type in “law journal” or “law review” to see the short list of available titles. When you do a keyword search, you can immediately see which articles are rentable.
There has been some discussion about how researchers now skim research rather than read from end to end. This would seem to be a good match for that change, enabling people looking for information chunks to quickly see if they have found what they are looking for.
When it comes to online search, I stick pretty close to Google unless I am doing something unusual. A deep Web search service called Biznar came onto my radar recently and I thought I would try it out.
“Deep Web” typically means database driven content that is inaccessible to the average (Google, Bing) search index spiders. It can mean things like law journals in HeinOnline or case law in LexisNexis or Westlaw. Deep Web tools will have permission or some ability to access the contents of those systems, sometimes providing you with access to the content from the Web rather than through a subscription.
Biznar has a couple of things going for it that make it worth adding to your legal research toolkit. First, it actually has law-related sources, so you are likely to get relevant legal information. It is also great for business and other resources, but you can get that elsewhere.
The search results come back in clusters, so you can quickly do filtering based on author, publication, date, and so on. This faceted search is familiar to anyone who shops online but I haven’t seen it really work well on Web search yet.
The clincher for me is that Biznar plays to my research laziness. You can save a search as an alert and it will mail you updated matches to it. You can also save your search as an RSS feed, so if you are watching a topic – or a client or an opponent – you can get constant updates.
A link near the top, below the search box, shows collection status, which tells you what Biznar successfully searched. This helps you see if there were any errors, but also gives you a quick peek at your source list. Government sites are US focused, but you will see HeinOnline content returned through Google Scholar, as well as practice area specific results like EDGAR information. The advanced search allows you to pre-specify your sources, so you can limit a search to whole cluster, like Government, or drill down to specifics. Even searching a single site with Biznar may be better than searching the site itself, if you can set up an alert to monitor future changes.