10 of the Best
Online Research Tools
for journalists -
Norwegian Online News
An introduction to a few
advanced research tools
Colin Meek is Consulting Editor to Journalism.co.uk
He has delivered scheduled and in-house courses in
Advanced Online Research to journalists, policy analysts and
market researchers for ﬁve years.
In-house clients have included:
Oxford Analytica, Channel 4 (UK), Cornwall Energy,
Verdens Gang (VG Norway), RPSGB and others
For more information see:
Image licensed under creative commons: http://www.ﬂickr.com/photos/tronics/380379732/
1: Google’s ‘advanced operators’
... used to pin-point results that normal
search strategies can’t reach
You can use Google’s ‘advanced’ search form,
but, used correctly, operators can cut to the
giving you better and more focused results
Precision Surﬁng using
google’s advanced operators
• Use advanced operators for more precision and
• Type them directly into the google search ﬁeld
• Command google to look only:
• at speciﬁc sites;
• for speciﬁc document types; or,
• for search terms in speciﬁc places.
Look at this search string:
business opportunities “london olympics” ~advice site:.com
• site:.com restricts the search to ‘.com’ websites
• ~advice searches for synonyms of advice such
as ‘help’ or ‘guide’
• “london olympics” acts as a phrase search
• focused results
• from relevant
• Combine advanced operators with key search
terms to craft precise search strings.
• Sometimes called ‘forensic surﬁng’
Combine operators for
Looking for case studies from ofﬁcial sources of swine ﬂu
outbreaks in UK schools:
site:.gov.uk “swine ﬂu * schools” ~outbreak
Here, the asterisk acts as a wildcard for words between ‘swine
ﬂu’ and ‘schools’
For a full description of google’s advanced operators see:
2: Google’s Timeline Tool
Instantly get a story in context and hunt down historical
information on trending topics
Do a normal search -
Go to ‘more options’ -
Select ‘Timeline’ -
Select date range.
3: Add ‘database’ to your key-word search term
If you are doing a story on any subject and you think a publicly
accessible database (or ofﬁcial database) may exist - add the
word ‘database’ to a relevant keyword search
For example, if you are doing a story on anti-depressant
medication in Norway?
Use this term in your search engine:
norway prescription database
That search returns the Norwegian Prescription Database as the
ﬁrst hit where you can interrogate prescription records
For more on the ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ web:
Tweetdeck is an extraordinarily powerful tool that lets you
monitor changing Twitter content in real-time
Download it free from tweetdeck.com
The respected web research blogger Phil Bradley on this
month’s Mexican Earthquake:
Two hours after eye witness accounts started to appear -
BBC News site had still failed to mention the earthquake...
There really wasn't any doubt in my mind that Twitter is THE ﬁrst
place for news stories...
but the amount, the richness and variety of information is
becoming quite astonishing.
The only thing that surprises me....is the inability of the
traditional news media to keep up to date with what's going on.
And you know what - they can't.
Because they can't be everywhere, in the way that Twitter is.
But, the next best thing to being everywhere, is to monitor the
Web - including Twitter - effectively.
Create unique lists of twitter users to track subjects and news
Add search “columns” to track posts on speciﬁc terms.
From the same interface:
Monitor speciﬁc users.
Message speciﬁc users.
Turn posts into emails.
5: Use RSS to ﬁlter feeds
Stop hunting for news that you can monitor automatically.
Conﬁgure tools correctly so your sources come to you.
Choose a RSS reader that lets you set up smart feeds
to ﬁlter your subscriptions..
Which lets you set
rules for which
posts are included
If you do this well,
and stay focused,
you don’t have to
dozens or even
hundreds of blog
Store web pages
- clip them
- store pictures
- create notes
- ﬁle them
- and much more
With an easy ‘webclipper’
button you can use directly
from your browser
Everything is searchable, including handwritten notes and images.
And your whole ﬁle of
information is synced
between your desktop
computer and Evernote
The browser plugin that lets you links; saving you from opening
It also lets you:
- save or email the snapshot of the page and gives you additional
data about the link.
An Interclue pop-up from a BBC news page letting you
read the whole of a linked news story.
For more on improving your browser: http://bit.ly/2kR9B9
8: Google’s Cache
Google’s Cache is an under-used tool that lets you:
- look back in time to when the page was last indexed by
- lets you browse suspect sites anonymously; and,
- can enable you to bypass site subscription fees.
Google’s cache of a page from the ‘Stormfront’ site
One of the best new wave of real-time search engines that lets
you monitor updating web content.
Here is a simple example that demonstrates the power of Pipes:
Here I created a pipe
that extracts stories
from ofﬁcial RSS feeds
that contain one of the
It also converts a normal Google search into the RSS
This pipe was created to track a brand mentioned in social media
For more information on how to use Pipes:
http://bit.ly/iDUT0 for a video demo and...
http://bit.ly/9GShP for more advanced options.
Lots of other guides exist online