Biographical Research by Computer

By Griffith, Cary | Information Today, January 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Biographical Research by Computer


Griffith, Cary, Information Today


Consider a broad definition of the term legal research to include locating information on any subject or topic arising out of your legal work. Since your legal work can cover virtually any subject and involve just about anyone, biographical research is often one of the most important kinds of legal research you can perform.

Today the amount of information you can compile on people borders on frightening. In many instances I've been asked to compile detailed dossiers on individuals. These dossiers can be compiled in anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and can cost a few bucks to hundreds of dollars, depending upon how much information you want and how much your client is willing to spend.

WESTLAW and LEXIS

While the majority of this article will address many of the biographical resources available through DIALOG, no law office should ever overlook the two most prominent computer assisted legal research services: WESTLAW and LEXIS. Among potentially relevant WESTLAW sources consider the WESTLAW Legal Directory (WLD), if you're looking for information on a lawyer. The WLD contains information on hundreds of thousands of lawyers from the U.S. and Canada, and on law school students, legal teachers, judges, and courts. Not only is the WLD becoming a very complete, authoritative research tool; it's also cheap. If you search it on WESTLAW you'll only be billed for communications charges. You can also access it for free via the Internet.

You can also access ALLNEWS, all of the Dow Jones databases through WESTLAW. All of these databases are accessible using WESTLAW's standard system search syntax. ALLNEWS includes things like the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and approximately 600 other business, scientific, and technical publications.

And of course if you want to be very specific you can always search the online version of the Wall Street Journal. If you're looking for information on a business person, the Wall Street Journal is one of the best, authoritative, and most interesting sources of basic newspaper-type information you'll find.

LEXIS has the industry standard Martindale Hubbel Law Directory--long a mainstay in the legal profession. This contains a great deal of abbreviated biographical information regarding the majority of lawyers in America, and many in foreign countries. LEXIS also provides subscribers with access to political biographical resources (e.g., Associated Press Political--contains information on a variety of state and federal issues, including candidate positions, congressional ratings, and POLBIO--which combines the Almanac of American Politics, and Congressional Member Information, Associated Press Candidate Biographies, and similar kinds of titles).

There's also the PEOPLE library, which brings together biographical information on all kinds of individuals by capturing what it describes as "people-related news." Some of the titles in the PEOPLE library include the New York Times Biographical File--Government, Los Angeles Times Biographical Stories, PEOPLE Magazine, and Washington Post Biographical Stories.

The LEXIS/NEXIS service also carries BASELINE, which contains celebrity biographies, GALE biographies, UNELECT (from The Almanac of the Unelected)--containing background information on key staff members of committees and subcommittees of the U.S. Congress, and several other biographicalrelated titles.

Of course, similar to the Dow Jones databases available through WESTLAW, don't forget NEXIS. A great deal of information can be found using general business and news information resources.

But often one of the most overlooked biographical resources are those available through DIALOG. DIALOG has a wide variety of biographical resources. Using DIALOG you've got approximately 7-10 good solid biographical research options--i.e., DIALOG databases that carry biographical information. While these databases aren't specifically legal, in many instances they contain biographical information that can't be found anywhere else.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Biographical Research by Computer
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?