Category Archives: Search Engines

It’s Not Science Fiction, It’s a New Way to Search

Here in law library-land, we’re all familiar with the concept of “citation chasing”- i.e., finding one good on-point article and then mining its citations, footnotes, and citing sources for other relevant articles. But what if there were a way to let an algorithm look at the relevant article you’d already found and mine it for keywords, ultimately generating you a list of other relevant articles?


Sound like science fiction? It’s not- this is a basic description of JSTOR’s new tool, “Text Analyzer.”


This tool allows you to place large chunks of text (or even the entire text of an article!) into its search box, which will then analyze the text and return other relevant JSTOR articles. If you’ve ever used the “related articles” link on Google Scholar (another great way to citation chase), it’s a similar algorithm. EBSCO also has a similar tool.


However, JSTOR’s Text Analyzer does several things these tools do not. Text Analyzer will also provide a list of what it has identified as relevant keywords in the article, along with importance/prominence. After you’ve run your search, though, you can play with these keywords and elevate their importance, or add or delete keywords in order to re-run your search. Therein lies the true strength of this new tool- not assuming that the search or algorithm gives perfect results right away, but allowing the user to tweak and re-tweak in order to find what they are looking for. It’s still not perfect, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction as far as search engines go, and I’m hoping this pushes other search engines to develop similar and even better tools for searching.

A small but critical change on


Congress.Gov announced yesterday that with their new version of searching, users will now get slightly different results. The reason? The default operator is now AND and not OR. So, as Congress.Gov’s post points out, a search for National Park will yield results that include National AND Park instead of National OR Park. A nice improvement, if I do say so myself!

Read more about Congress.Gov’s change here.

CourtListener Frees the Law

The following blog post was written by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian at the University of Wisconsin Law School Library

CourtListener is a powerful new free legal research website sponsored by the non-profit Free Law Project.  The Court Listener platform is composed of four searchable databases containing judicial opinions, an audio collection of oral arguments, judge profiles, and documents from the Federal PACER system.  The repository’s numbers are impressive and growing daily.

  • Almost 4 million legal opinions from federal and state courts.
  • Real-time coverage of oral arguments from SCOTUS and 11 of the 13 Federal Judicial Circuits.
  • A database of over 8500 judge profiles.
  • 2.4 million plus PACER documents.

The search engine is easy to use and offers an “Advanced Search” option to refine searches in a number of ways including citation, judge, and docket number.  Case law searches are powered by their CiteGeist Relevancy Engine to provide the most relevant and important cases at the top of the results.  CourtListener downloads opinions from many jurisdictions on an ongoing basis thereby allowing users to set up alerts using customized search and citation feeds.  RSS feeds may also be set up by jurisdiction.

The oral arguments database is also continually updated, making it the biggest such collection on the Internet.  At present, CourtListener provides oral arguments to over 1500 cases originating from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  A count of available oral arguments from SCOTUS and 11 of the 13 Federal Judicial Circuits totals over 19,000.  The judge profile search now also links up to the oral arguments database meaning when you look up the profile page for a judge, you may see a list of oral argument recordings for cases that judge has heard.

What really makes CourtListener special is the free access to PACER documents it provides through the RECAP Archive.  Users of the PACER system can contribute to the building of the archive by downloading the RECAP Extensions for Firefox and Chrome.  As you browse PACER, the RECAP extension automatically uploads docket files and PACER-downloaded PDFs to the Internet Archive for others to download later.  The net effect is kind of like paying it forward, allowing the documents (and legal benefits) to flow to everyone.  This newfound access to PACER documents is truly groundbreaking.

CourtListener joins a growing list of other free legal research sites as Google Scholar, FindLaw, Justia, Ravel Law, and Casetext.  You owe it to yourself to take the newest of these for a test drive.  CourtListener rightly joins the UW Law Library’s list of free legal resources available on our Databases and Electronic Resources page.

WI Historical Society Preserves Text from Scrubbed DNR & other Government Websites

Last month the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “the state Department of Natural Resources recently scrubbed language from an agency web page on the Great Lakes that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change. The DNR now says the subject is a matter of scientific debate.”

The web page in question is  The article gives links to both the current and old text as archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a digital archive of web contact back to 1996.

What the Journal Sentinel article didn’t mention is that the archived site is also available through an archive of websites curated by Wisconsin Historical SocietyThe archive contains sites from “state agencies and local governments, political campaigns for gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races and related social media, topical issues such as mining and organic agriculture and selected online publications.”

According to the Historical Society,

This effort aims to provide permanent access to websites and other digital materials for researchers and the general public. By harvesting the content of these websites through the “Archive-It” subscription service, the Wisconsin Historical Society collects, preserves, and makes accessible these electronic publications and records for public use.

What’s the difference between the Wayback Machine and sites collected by the Historical Society you might ask?  Thoughtful curation and searchability.  From the Historical Society FAQ:

The primary difference between the general Wayback Machine web portal and Archive-It websites collected by institutions such as the WHS (which are also viewed through the Wayback portal) is that Archive-It collections are full-text searchable. WHS staff selects websites to preserve in various collections and can capture websites at strategic times, while the general Wayback Machine may or may not have an archived version of the website for which a user is searching.

So – if you’re looking for an archived version for a particular URL, stick with the Wayback machine which will include any sites archived by the Historical Society.  However, if you want to determine if particular text ever appeared on those sites, then give the Historical Society web archives a try.

Google Images – Search by Image and Usage Rights

Google Images is a great tool for finding useful photos and graphics on the web.
Did you know that instead of searching for images by keywords, you can search by an image to find similar images? You can either use a photo from the web or upload your own. For more, see this video from Google.
Google has also made it easier to filter your results by the type of usage rights assigned to the image. This is helpful when you want to limit your search to just those images that you can use on your website or presentation.
To filter, run a search then click “Search Tools” on the results page. There is now a drop-down for usage rights. Your options are “not filtered by license”, “labeled for reuse”, “labeled for commercial reuse”, “labeled for reuse with modification”, and “labeled for commercial reuse of modification”.
For more info on the usage rights filter, see Search Engine Watch.

Slim Down Bloated Links from Google Search Results

Ever tried to copy a link from Google search results and ended up something messy looking like this:

The messiness is because Google changes the URL to help them track who is clicking on which links. That’s fine for Google, but it’s frustrating for people like me who want to save or share those links with others.
But there is good news – Makeuseof describes a couple of simple plugins/userscripts which you can install to solve this. I used the Google/Yandex search link fix for Firefox and it works beautifully.

Litigation – WI Law Firm Purchases Search Results for Another Firm’s Name

A suit filed last week by Habush Habush & Rottier alleges that the firm of Cannon & Dunphy effectively hijacked the names and reputation of Habush attorneys by purchasing the keywords “Habush” and “Rottier” for its Internet search results.
From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

Until a day after the suit was filed, anyone who typed in the names Habush or Rottier on the popular search engine Google would see the home site for Cannon & Dunphy appear first.
According to the Associated Press, Cannon has acknowledged paying for the keywords but denied any wrongdoing, saying it was following a legal business strategy….
In the suit, Habush claims that Cannon violated the Wisconsin privacy law – Wis. Stat. 995.50(2)(b) – which states that someone’s name or likeness cannot be used for advertising purposes without written consent from the individual.

Is this a big deal? Consider this from WTN News…”According to Google, 75 percent of Google users NEVER click past the first page. The top three Google results get 79 percent of all clicks. The remaining 7 results share just 21 percent of the clicks.”

Interactive Statistics from Google

Google has recently launched a new search feature that makes it easy to find and compare public data.
From the Google Blog:

If you go to and type in [unemployment rate] or [population] followed by a U.S. state or county, you will see the most recent estimates.
Once you click the link, you’ll go to an interactive chart that lets you add and remove data for different geographical areas.

I ran a sample search for “umemployment rate Wisconsin” which produced an interactive chart. I then added Michigan which added those statistics to the chart.
More from the Google Blog:

The data we’re including in this first launch represents just a small fraction of all the interesting public data available on the web. There are statistics for prices of cookies, CO2 emissions, asthma frequency, high school graduation rates, bakers’ salaries, number of wildfires, and the list goes on.

Monitor Web Content with Google Alerts – Now with Email and RSS Alerts

Google Alerts allow you to enter search terms and receive notification whenever it finds new content matching those terms.
You can specify if you would like to search news, blog, web, video, or group content or all of the above. You choose whether you want it to alert you as-it-happens, once-a-day or once-a-week. You can receive your results via email or now though RSS.
Law Practice Magazine offers these ideas on how lawyers can make use of Google Alerts:

  • First and foremost, enter your own name as a keyword, so you know what the world is saying about you.
  • Likewise, enter your firm name, as well as the names of your partners, so you can help everyone keep track of news related to the firm (and its reputation).
  • Monitor news about legislation, regulations and the like in particular practice areas and business sectors.
  • Keep a weather eye on what competing law firms are doing.
  • Watch out for leaks about highly proprietary data of significant clients. You would be surprised at how often proprietary data shows up in blogs–just ask Steve Jobs at Apple, whose R&D beans were spilled left and right not long ago.
  • If your clients sell a well-known product, watch what is being said about it–and perhaps watch for knockoffs.
  • Keep up with other developments relevant to your firm by entering the appropriate terms, such as “electronic evidence,” “legal marketing forums” or the like.
  • Gauge your return on investment for marketing activities–for example, if you send out a press release or host a national seminar, enter identifying terms for it and see how often it appears in blogs and on the Internet generally.
  • Enter terms that might yield “surprise” information relevant to that pending litigation your firm is handling.
  • Are there experts in your area of law who are always worth reading? Plug in their names, too.
  • Sometimes it’s places that you want to monitor. If you have an office in Peru, news from there may be instructive.