A very useful source for research, NYTimes .com Topics Pages, was reported in the February 2009 issue of The Cyberskeptic’s Guide to Internet Research.  According to Times Topics,

Each topic page collects all the news, reference and archival information, photos, graphics, audio and video files published on topics ranging from Madonna to Myanmar[…]

Times Topics also includes links to key documents, speeches and reports.  You can find Topic pages by using the alphabetical index at the top of page, by clicking on hyperlinks within news stories or by entering terms in the website search bar. 

This is an excellent start for research on “more than 14,000 subjects.”  Some topics like the Credit Crisis, are covered more thoroughly than others like Organic Gardening; however all include links to archived news stories going back to 1981.

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The Phrase Finder is an useful site you can use to find “the meanings and origins of over 1,200 English sayings, phrases and idioms,” according to its web site.  There are detailed explanations providing the origins of all sorts of sayings.  There is a search function of course, but there’s also a  Phrase of the Week newsletter to which you can subscribe.  Some recent posts include Donkey’s years, Toodle-oo, Think outside the box, With bells on, Chop-chop and Silver bullet.

Sources used for the research include primary sources such as newspapers, books, etc., and “trusted references” such as  The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition and The Historial Dictionary of American Slang, First Edition, according to the web site.

Thanks to David King, who wrote about it in an article published in the July/August 2008 Information Today, Fun Site Traces Origins of “Riding Shotgun,” p. 37.

If you are searching cases and want to limit your results to those documents that mention your terms a number of times, try using the term frequency features in Lexis and Westlaw. 

The Lexis field restrictor atleast requires that your terms appear a minimum number of times in a document.  The following search will retrieve cases that mention the phrase “bad faith” five times: atleast5(bad faith).

For Westlaw, put your search terms in the search box and click on the Term Frequency button to the right of the search box.  A list of your search terms is displayed, each with a drop-down box listing an at least number.  Select the terms you want to restrict and the corresponding numbers.  Click here for Westlaw Term Frequency instructions and a screen shot.

At this time, you’ll only find Westlaw’s Term Frequency button in case law, news and secondary sources.  It’s not available in statutes, administrative codes, public records or pretrial documents such as briefs or pleadings.

Traffic increases from search engines has led The New York Times to stop charging for online access to TimeSelect and other portions of the site, according to a NYT article published September 18, Times to Stop Charging for Parts of Its Web Site.  TimesSelect includes “the work of its columnists and to the newspaper’s archives.” Other portions to be made available September 18 at midnight include “its archives from 1987 to the present […] as well as those from 1851 to 1922.  Some materials from 1923 to 1986 will still be subject to charge.

The change, according to The Times, was that “many more readers started coming to the site from search engines and links on other sites instead of coming directly to NYTimes.com.  These indirect readers, unable to get access to articles behind the pay wall and less likely to pay subscription fees than the more loyal direct users, were seen as opportunities for more page views and increased advertising revenue.”

“What wasn’t anticipated was the explosion in how much of our traffic would be generated by Google, by Yahoo and some others,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site, NYTimes.com.

So, Lexis or Westlaw may be perfect for searching across the archives of a number of newspapers at once, but if you are looking specifically for a New York Times article, check the NYTimes.com first.  You may just find it for free.

Reference Sites on the Web

January 25, 2007

This recent article by Law Librarian, Mary J. Koshollek, lists many ready-reference resources “divided into several categories, that are some of the best resources for providing factual, accurate, and up-to-date information on any topic.”  including dictionaries, directories, atlases, almanacs, statistics, encyclopedias, and more.  The article, Reference Sites on the Web, is published in the December 2006 issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer.  Thanks to Law Librarian Blog‘s Joe Hodnicki for reporting on that.