Searching Beyond Google

Not everything is findable on Google. Commercial library databases allow you to go inside paywalls and search deep archives, with great specificity. Some subject-specific databases have information Google can’t index, and going straight to the source can also save you time.

Use Library Databases

Because anything behind a database paywall, that requires registration or a query search is not indexed by Google. You can also access a much larger archive and do much more specific searches on library databases. Use your library card barcode to access many of these pay databases remotely.

Social & Transparency Data Sites - search these sites by keyword or topic
  • NYC Open Data public data from NYC agencies (see Finding Data for help Navigating this site).
  • NYS Open Data public data from NYS agencies
  • Checkbook NYC  searchable database provided by the Comptroller’s Office of all New York City expenditures.
  • Open Book New York from State Comptroller: local and state data on revenue, spending and contracts. Updated nightly.
  • SeeThroughNY NYS data from Empire Center for Public Policy: payrolls, budget, pensions, contracts and more.
  • Sunlight Foundation nonpartisan org creates tools and databases to make government and politics more transparent.
Mine state, local and federal legislative committee reports: find data, chronologies and experts in legislative reports – search these sites by keyword or topic
  • NYC Councilmatic portal into the NYC Council Website has committee reports, hearing transcripts or hearing testimony, which can provide illuminating information and data on your topic.
  • Search for by keyword
  • Order results by date
  • Then click on those proposed bills, which mention your agency, to search for one where you can find Committee Reports and Hearing Testimony/Transcripts (If you scroll down in bill content you will see something like this screenshot, minus the redactions).
  • Summarize the issue addressed in the bill, and any data in the committee report and hearing testimony/transcript.
  • Congressional Research Service Reports on Every policy topic before Congress, find chronologies, data primary sources on a topic.
  • National Conference on State Legislatures compiles info on policy initiatives by State.
Exercise #2 search for number of people with autism in NYC

Compare these search results:

1) Have students search Google for the number of people in NYC with autism.

2) Then have students search the word autism on the New York City Council’s Website.

They will find this bill listed Introduction 1236-2016 (an Inactive bill) Requiring autism spectrum disorder reporting. This bill would require the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to collect data on the incidence of autism spectrum disorder diagnoses in New York City, by community district, and to post this data on its website. [This means the City isn’t collecting the data!]

If you scroll down to look at the attachments for the bill, they will sometimes find committee reports, hearing testimony and transcripts, which contain data/statistics, timelines, details, stakeholders, experts and more on a policy issue before the City Council.

Government audit reports – Search these sites by topic or keyword
Do these Google searches for audit reports and use Tools to limit your results to the past year:
  • (audit OR report) “administration of children’s services” filetype:pdf
  • (audit OR report) “administration of children’s services” site:gov
  • (audit OR report) “administration of children’s services” site:org
  • (audit OR report) “administration of children’s services” site:edu
Video and Document Resources – search these sites by keyword or topic
Find experts or stakeholders – go to their websites and search for reports or data, or contact an expert

See if your library has the Gale Directory Library. You can search in the directories by Topic for these types of sources:

  • academia
  • scholarly publishing
  • companies (private sector)
  • interest groups
  • professional societies
  • publications and websites
  • research institutes
  • think tanks
  • watchdogs
Learning the jargon in your topic will help you search, which will help you find information in authoritative sources like agency or academic reports

Example: autism OR “autism spectrum disorder”

Search in databases for scholarly articles & government/think tank/stakeholder reports – you can search all of these by keyword and topic
  • CUNY Academic Works CUNY’s scholarly research portal
  • Google Scholar Google search for scholarly articles
  • Semantic Scholar search engine for scholarly work, goes beyond keywords and tags, also searches all text, images, figures, data, and graphs. Currently limited to computer science and neuroscience materials, but expanding.
  • Microsoft Academic Microsoft’s scholarly article search (not as big as Google yet, but it’s getting there)
  • Journalist’s Resource database of scholarly research collected for journalists
  • INFOdocket publishes reports from gov’t, thinks tanks, interest groups, etc
  • CORE millions of open-access research papers
  • Unpaywall access full-text scholarly articles
  • OpenDOAR search worldwide, academic open-access repositories.
  • Disciplinary Repositories search worldwide, open-access disciplinary repositories at universities and organizations.
  • Harvard University Think Tank Search search for publications written by think tanks from around the world.
  • JSTOR full-text journal articles -has a register and read model
  • Hidden archives registry many unprocessed and recently processed library, archival, and museum collections
Archived webpages
3-2-1 Exit Ticket Assessment

Have students answer these three brief concluding reflection questions on paper or through an online service like Socrative:

3. Write down three takeaways from this lesson;

2. Write down two questions you still have after this lesson;

1. Write down the one thing you enjoyed the most about this lesson.