The Invisible Web: How to Access Hidden Documents Online

Current search engines are hiding more and more information from us every day, which could put you at a loss when it comes to research.

For instance, when you look up a book on Amazon.com, you'll find the book title, author, price, customer rating, and you may even be able to download the first chapter or at least the table of contents. So why then, when you type the same book title into a search engine like Google or Yahoo! can't you find that same information? You know it's there because you just saw it. Instead you find random reports by people who have referenced the book on their website. And sometimes, the reference to the book is so small you can't find it, not to mention locate any information you might find useful for your research.

This hidden information that general-purpose search engines cannot or will not index is located on what's considered, the "Invisible Web." It can't be found because it's either locked up within databases or it’s in a format that's simply "invisible" to today's searching tools.

It's not that you're not allowed to view it – it's just that search engines can't find it, which means you need to either look up the database itself (which can be done using your regular search engine) or you need to use an Invisible Web searching tools such as Weblens.org.

To find specific databases using a search engine like Google or Yahoo, start by searching for your subject plus the word "database."

For example, search for: nuclear explosions database … economical and financial database … classical composers database … UFO database … etc. After all, it's not the site that's invisible, it's the pages within the site that you're looking for but can't find.

Here are a few databases and sites you might find useful for your research:

  • http://lii.org/ – Librarians Index – Reliable guide of Internet resources selected and evaluated by librarians. Also contains links to Invisible Web databases on a variety of topics.
  • http://www.findlaw.com/ – FindLaw – Free online resource for legal information and services with links to free databases on any law-related topic.
  • http://www.uspto.gov/ – Search site for patents and trademarks.
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi – PubMed – National Library of Medicine, provides access to over 11 million MEDLINE citations.
  • http://www.askeric.org/ – Free, online version of the ERIC Database. Contains more than 1 million summations of journal articles and other documents on education research and practice.
  • http://www.findarticles.com/cf_0/PI/index.jhtml – FindArticles.com is a free searchable archive of published magazine and journal articles from 1998 to the present. You can read and print each article you find.
  • http://www.rtk.net/ – The Right-to-Know Network, provides free access to numerous databases, text files, and conferences on the environment, housing, and sustainable development. Identify specific factories and their environmental effects; analyze reinvestment by banks in their communities; and assess people and communities affected.
  • http://www.everyrule.com/ – Every rule in the universe from games … to TV Game Shows … to Sports … to Etiquette.
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Published: July 22, 2002

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