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Lessons from Using LexisNexis (The Affordable Version) for Research

Image of library for website of Bonnie Nicholls, San Diego freelance writer

As a writer, I do a lot of research. Whether it’s a blog on energy efficiency or an article focused on flu shots for a healthcare client, I use Google search for everything.

But Google – even Google Scholar – has its limitations. What can be particularly frustrating is the best sources, often peer-reviewed articles, are behind pay walls. What’s a writer to do?

Use an affordable version of LexisNexis.

LexisNexis, for those not in the know, is a powerful search engine that allows its customers – for a fee – access to “billions of searchable documents and records from more than 45,000 legal, news and business sources,” according to its website. Now, these are some mighty big customers, such as huge media companies, with deeper pockets than mine. But as a freelancer, I support some large companies, and I often need access, too.

I’m able to use LexisNexis because of a deal it has with the Contently Foundation, the “greater good” arm of Contently, a technology company that makes content marketing software, offers content strategy, and vets freelance talent for its customers. (By the way, I always thought it was pronounced CONtently, but it’s actually ConTENTly.)

I have only scratched the surface of this tool, but so far I’ve been pretty pleased.

Simple search on topics

The version I have doesn’t include public records or court docket data, but I’ve got access to pretty much everything else.  For example, I recently helped a client do research for a health article focused on mergers and acquisitions. I had to find articles for various aspects of this research, and these citations were not supposed to come from mass media sources, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post.

I was able to search topics by industry journals, such as health and medical care, which provided access to 212 publications, such as the Journal of the American Medical Association, FDA Week, Psychology Today, Modern Healthcare, etc. This was super helpful, since some of these publications limit how many articles you can view before you hit the paywall.

Search for companies and people

Another aspect of LexisNexis I like is the company search. It makes it super easy to track down M&A and financials. The biographies search is also pretty handy as well. Not only does it provide bio information on executives, but also their phone numbers and email addresses.

Other cool features

Some of the features I’ve really liked are

  • The ability to save searches and run them again
  • Saving and downloading articles
  • Setting up customized lists of publications I search regularly

Stuff I’m still figuring out

It’s going to take some time for me to really master this tool. Its power search allows you to use different search connectors, like HLEAD (headline or lead paragraph), PUB (publication) or W/p (within paragraph), to further define your search.

Results can be so overwhelming that you have to learn how to narrow your topics, something else I’m learning.

To get a handle on this tool, I’ve watched a lot of LexisNexis video tutorials (in Flash), and while I’ve sat through those,  I might have liked a document with screen grabs instead. Fortunately, you can ask for training sessions from Brad Hamilton, the editor in chief of the Contently Foundation, which I plan to do.

For more information on the freelancers’ version of Nexis Lexis, go to Expert Access.

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Bonnie Nicholls
Bonnie Nicholls is a freelance writer specializing in thought leadership content: case studies, articles, white papers/ebooks and blog posts. She supports industries such as Agile/Scrum, defense and leadership training.