Sunday, September 04, 2005

Research Tip of the Week

Last week's tip was "Use more than one search engine." As researchers – especially legal researchers – you should not fall into the trap of relying on only one search engine. Different engines perform different searches better. Even the biggest search engine database covers only about one-third of all the information available on the web. And you never know when your favorite search engine might be down for a couple of days, or get sold and disappear forever.

We looked at Clusty as an example of an alternate search engine. There are two things that set Clusty apart from most of the better-known search engines. First, it is a meta-search engine. That means that rather than just searching its own Vivísimo database, Clusty runs your search through several other search engines and compiles the results, ranking them based on an average of the relevance rankings from the search engines used.

But what really sets Clusy apart is clustering. Besides combining your search results into a single ranked list, which is the initial display in the right frame, Clusty also organizes the results into topical folders and subfolders called clusters. (Use the dropdown menu to cluster by source or URL instead.) These clusters are displayed as folders in the left frame, giving researchers a quick overview of the types of information retrieved. Click on the folders to focus on topics that are more relevant to your research.

In addition to its default Web+ search, Clusty has tabs for searching News, Images, Shopping, Wikipedia, Gossip, eBay, Blogs, Gov, or Jobs, and allows the researcher to create customized tabs. Legal researchers will find the Gov tab especially helpful for finding government information. If the Gov tab does not show up on the first Clusty screen, click on the Customize tab and check the Gov box, then click the Save button. You can also customize Clusty by clicking on Advanced to choose which search engines to use for each search.

Archive of Research Tips.

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