Research Tips for Paralegals: Utilizing the Deep Web

Performing both legal and case research as a paralegal quite often can be a time consuming and frustrating task. For many paralegals, Google is the main tool for performing any type of internet research. Gone are the days of multiple trips to the library hauling around heavy law or medical books!

Unfortunately, using search engines like Google and Yahoo will only produce certain types of results, most often limited in scope. An easier and faster way to get directly to relevant sources for case and legal research is to utilize deep web databases and sites, which will produce an accurate and well rounded research result in less time with less frustration.

Many people are not familiar with the deep web and what it contains. The deep web is the largest part of the internet; in fact it's much, much more expansive than anything that Google or Yahoo will find in a typical search. The reason for this is that the common search engines only index web pages with links, such as a site like These search engines only scratch the surface of what is available on the web. The deep web, on the other hand, is virtually everything else out there on the web, and it's a massive amount of information. As an example, we know that many spreadsheets and pdf's do not contain links. These would not be found by a typical Google search, considered to be part of the surface web.
In fact, according to Michael Bergman at Bright Planet, who wrote in his white paper titled "The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value," the amount of information available on the deep web is 400 to 550 times larger than what is available on the World Wide Web. In addition, the deep web holds about 550 billion documents, compared to the 1 billion documents on the surface web. Bergman has also found that nearly 95% of all the information on the deep web is accessible to the public for free.
The deep web holds an abundance of journal articles, academic research, government documents and corporate databases, scientific and medical studies, and sites that help you locate experts and witnesses. How does a paralegal get past Google searches and find solid research by utilizing the deep web? Start by narrowing your focus to the type of research you need. Are you looking for medical studies on a particular disease? Perhaps you need an engineering report on a specific product, or a scientific journal article on the effects of certain levels of chemicals. Think about the project at hand and list search terms that relate to your case. After a little planning, you're ready to swim in the deep web!
Due to the massive amount of information on the deep web, a good place to start is with a "database of databases," which can also be called a deep web directory. Directories are helpful when you need research on multiple aspects of a subject like heart disease. The directories are set up like a one stop shop, listing databases in available categories like Law or Health, while others simply let you type in a keyword and perform a wide search. There are many good deep web directories out there, but many are more useful and user friendly than others, and most are free. Although there are hundreds of thousands of search sites that are topic specific, the deep web directories and search engines below perform broadly based searches and provide a busy paralegal with topic headings to make research easier and faster.
Here are three examples of deep web databases that paralegals can find useful in researching for cases.  
OAIster boasts that their site has "millions of digital resources from thousands of contributors." OAlster selects information from worldwide open archive collections and museums, as well as allowing multiple libraries worldwide to work together in a collaborative effort to build the catalog. It is a massive collection of resources, and is a great place for paralegals to find facts. OAIster uses WorldCat, the "record of human knowledge" that the contributors have built as a platform for all the information on the site. When you arrive at the site, select the WorldCat option in the top toolbar and perform your search from the search bar. A search for "heart failure" returned several books, ebooks, articles and videos, and many of the resulting documents were free or listed for a nominal price. Thousands of journals from multiple fields of study can be found here as well. OAIster offers helpful search tips and instructions for using the site as well.
This is a great deep web directory that touts itself as a scholarly internet resource. Several topics are available to choose from including business, economics and cultural diversity. Librarians from several major universities in the U. S. contribute to the directory's resources. A standard search can return anything from electronic books, journals and mailing lists, along with multiple databases. The site is easy to use and can help any paralegal find good research that can easily be cited in any document.
The National Academies press publishes books, articles and videos for the National Academies of Science, Medicine, Engineering and the Research Council. This particular deep web directory also contains many different categories to choose from, however, the books and articles are not free. Recent offerings by the site include a paperback book titled "Oil Spill Dispersants: Efficacy and Effects," and multiple publications relating to cancer and other diseases. Like other directories, the site contains a list of topics to help guide you through the site. Current and relevant information relating to public policy and medical technologies are available here as well.
Any new case for a paralegal will require a certain amount of research, some of which may be hard to locate or simply inadequate for the clients particular situation. It's possible the client's case could be won on the basis of correct research, making it all the more important to have useful resources at your fingertips. Using the deep web to find the research your case requires will be a simpler and faster process, yet will still provide current and correct facts and research. As technology, medicine and academia advance, it's important for paralegals to stay abreast of what resources are available to aid in securing a successful outcome for the client.


Anonymous said...

Helloooow irony. Post an article about little known, fascinating, useful websites and don't provide links to said websites. Well done.

Jenny Tucker said...

Our apologies, the linking set up system for Blogger has been down on our site since yesterday afternoon. Links will be placed when it's up and we have the ability to add links again. Thank you for visiting us!

Denise Federico said...

Wonderful news for me and my future legal research projects, links or not. Thank you!

Jenny Tucker said...

Thank you, glad it was of service to you. Thanks for visiting!!

Janabeth F. Taylor, LItigation Paralegal said...

This article on the "Deep Web" is one I published in draft format (with links) several months ago, I see Jenny Tucker posted with without given any credit nor attribution to my efforts. I worked long and hard researching the article which was much more in depth, and complete. I would like an apology from Ms. Tucker.

Janabeth F. Taylor, Litigation Paralegal -

Jenny Tucker said...

Hello. My apologies if you believe this is your article Janabeth Taylor. This article was submitted and published by a peer at the blog originally in January of 2012, and two more times on the blog in the past two years, and was published that same year (2012) on Yahoo Voices, where I was a contributing writer at the time. Please review my archive on the blog for the Jan. 2012 and you will find it posted there with a link to Yahoo Voices, as it was originally published on Yahoo Voices by me that same year, and you will find the link to that article listed my archives as well. Since I wrote this two years ago, and it was published on Yahoo Voices in 2012, and republished a few months ago (July) on my blog, I am sure this cannot be the article you wrote a few months ago in draft form like you stated. I am concerned that if our articles are that similar, and mine was published in 2012, that you may be not giving our blog the proper credit. I don't wish to sound mean, but you accused me of stealing your article without researching your accusation. Again, this was originally published by Yahoo Voices in 2012, a full year and a half before you wrote yours.

Jenny Tucker said...

I would also like to note that Yahoo Voices (formerly Yahoo Contributor Network) paid me for this article in January of 2012 while I retained exclusive rights to publish this anywhere I like. So technically Yahoo owns this article while I have publishing rights.

Jenny Tucker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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