Using Lexis Nexis to Search for Newspaper Articles Part 1
Searching Lexis Nexis for Newspaper Articles Part 1
Link Path WIU Libraries to Select a Database to Lexis Nexis Academic
Lexis Nexis was developed for use by lawyers and is best known for its ability to search materials of interest to lawyers, i.e. court cases, laws, regulations, etc. Lexis also has one of the largest archives of newspaper articles in the world--and it has a powerful and flexible search regime that allows patrons to get about any newspaper article they want. If you want to compare, say, Senator Obama's stand on health care and Senator McCain's and you want to see how both of their stands have evolved across time, Lexis will easily let you do this. However, Lexis' power comes with a price, a bit of a learning curve. Lexis is not as easy to use as America's Newspapers, another one of our databases. On the other hand, America's Newspapers is not as flexible as Lexis nor is its archive as deep or broad.
Locating Articles from the New York Times
The New York Times is one of the world's leading newspapers. Along with the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, the Times often sets the national news agenda (at least for the print media). Lexis provides a way of searching the The Times and doing so is a good way to learn Lexis' search protocols.
When you log in to Lexis you are taken to a General Search menu. To get to the newspapers you need to click on the NEWS tab--as below.
After clicking on the NEWS tab, you will be presented with a rather elaborate search menu. The first thing you want to do is jump down to the SOURCES drop box, click on it and select the The New York Times as below.
Next, you will want to select the date--which defaults to "Previous 3 Months." . Let's imagine we want to look at the past two years. To do that we use the SPECIFY DATE menu, which is located just beneath the SOURCES menu.
Let's create a simple search for articles about "elder care" as below. Click on the SEARCH button. You should get about 40 articles.
By default the results are returned in reverse chronological order.
However, it is usually a good idea to also sort the documents by relevance. This way the articles most on target come to the top. This is especially important when dealing with large result sets. Note the difference between the list below and above.
Lexis has an extremely useful SHOW feature, EXPANDED LIST, which allows you to see your search terms in context. I always use this feature, no matter how small a result list I get. To see how this works, look below.
To view an article, simply click on the link associated with it. Once inside, you can print or e-mail the article (or both) using a menu located on the upper right hand side of the page.
A More Complex Search Using the New York Times
Let's imagine we want to locate articles on the cost of health care published in the New York Times between January 1, 2004 and June 1st 2008.
You know how to select the New York Times (or just see the above if you don't) as a news source.
On the DATE DELIMTER menu, select "Date is between..."
Next fill in the appropriate dates as below.
Now, we create the search. We will use a proxmity search. A proximity search searches for words or phrases that are a certain distance from one another. This distance is measured in words. For example, health care w/20 cost means, "Scan all articles between the selected dates for the phrase, health care; count 20 words (w/20) in either direction and if you find the word, cost, grab that article.
The search returns about 2500 results. Now, perhaps, you can see the usefulness of being able to sort those articles by relevance. The likelyhood of you going through all 2500 results is pretty low. Below is an expanded list view of a highly relevant article, one I found by resorting by relevance.
When using a proximity search, keep this in mind: The closer the search terms are, the more involved with one another they are likely to be. health care w/200 cost is not as focused a search as health care w/5 cost. When the concepts are 200 words apart, they can be separated by many sentences and have little to do with one another. But if they are five words apart, they are likely in the same sentence or paragraph and, so, far more likely to have something to do with one another.
Using the Edit Search Button
Change the search above by clicking on the EDIT SEARCH button, which is located on the middle upper right hand of nearly any Lexis page.
This will take you back to your search. Now create the search health care w/5 costs, leaving everything else the same.
The number of results falls pretty dramatically, by about six hundred articles. Still, it's nearly 2000 articles. We can narrow the focus even more by requiring that Lexis only search a particular part of the article. You do this by clicking on the ANYWHERE IN THE DOCUMENT drop box. I usually select "In Headline and Lead Paragraphs." This limits our search to the "Who, What, When, Where, Why" paragraphs of a news article, the paragraphs that usually set the agenda for the rest of the article. Searching in this area means that we are more likely to get better focused results. Select "In Headline and Lead Paragraphs," not changing anything else, and run the search.
The results fall dramatically, to around 300. Again, you would want to resort the articles by relevance as well as looking at the most recent articles.
An Even More Complex Search Using the New York Times
Suppose you wanted to see what the New York Times says Senator Hillary Clinton thinks about health care costs. You could create a search that looks like this:
(health care w/20 cost!) w/25 (Hillary Clinton or Senator Clinton or Sen. Clinton) The parentheses group the two separate concepts. They also establish the order of precedence, i.e. the computer will first locate articles wherein health care is within 20 words of cost Then, the computer will see if Hillary Clinton or some version of her name is to be found with 25 words of those either "health care" or "cost." The use of "or" allows for each version of Hillary Clinton to be matched. What about that ! mark at the end of cost? The ! mark is Lexis' truncation operator, allowing Lexis to find word variants.
This search produces six very focused results. To get more results, we could increase the number of words separating Clinton from health care and cost or we could add in more newspapers by swapping out the New York Times for all U.S. papers--as below. This produces 469 results.
An Even More Complex Search
(You can cut and paste these searches into Lexis)
(health care w/15 cost!) w/15 ((Hillary Clinton or Senator Clinton or Sen. Clinton) or (Obama or Senator Obama or Barak Obama or Sen. Obama) or (John McCain or Senator McCain or Sen. McCain))
This search does the same thing as the search above, but matches three different persons (and three different versions of those persons) against health care and cost. Note that I changed the numbers, making them smaller, to focus the search. I received about 1200 results.
You could try to capture articles that discuss where two or more of these candidates agree about healh care and costs by adding doing the following search:
((health care w/15 cost!) w/15 ((Hillary Clinton or Senator Clinton or Sen. Clinton) or (Obama or Senator Obama or Barak Obama or Sen. Obama) or (John McCain or Senator McCain or Sen. McCain)) w/25 agree!)
This search does a fairly good job at finding agreements, but would probably benefit from throwing a few more synoymns for agree into the mix, words like "same," "similar," etc. The search below finds 130+ articles--remember the dates have stayed the same throughout this example. As you can see, Lexis is capable of handling highly complex searches. These searches are not difficult to construct as long as you remember to balance the parentheses and to keep the difference between the boolean "and" and "or" in mind.
(health care w/15 cost!) w/15 ((Hillary Clinton or Senator Clinton or Sen. Clinton) or (Obama or Senator Obama or Barak Obama or Sen. Obama) or (John McCain or Senator McCain or Sen. McCain)) w/25 (agree! or same or similar))
Below is an EXPANDED LIST view of two highly relelvant articles from the final search.