Tag Archives: workshops

Does price guarantee quality of information?

I recently co-presented a webinar on researching legal information. The event was organised by TFPL, and Alan Blanchard and myself reviewed free and paid for resources together with key search techniques.

Throughout the session we polled the audience on a number of issues, the first question being “Does price guarantee quality when you are purchasing information?”. Surprisingly, given the topic of the webinar, 70% voted ‘No’ with the remaining 30% opting for ‘I don’t know’ rather than ‘Yes’. When we asked about their opinions on free information, though, 79% said they would need a result from a free source to be validated with a paid resource.

The audience could not qualify their answers – it was a simple yes/no/don’t know – but there were some interesting discussions on the issues after the event. The priced services certainly have to work hard to prove value for money and they cannot assume that their users will automatically renew each year. Free information has a big part to play in legal and business research but it is vital that one is aware of the limitations of free. For example, do you know how up to date legislation.gov.uk is and if it carries revised legislation? (See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/help#aboutRevDate for the answer). And then there is the issue of making Google run your search the way you want it run, without personalisation or deviation.

I am running two public access workshops this autumn for TFPL that look at free versus fee resources for business and legal information. The first, on 19th September 2013, is Business information: key web resources and covers:

  • Portals and key starting points
  • Company information
  • Industry information
  • Official statistics, market research
  • News sources, RSS and alerting services
  • Social media and professional networks

The second is Free resources and search techniques for EU and UK legislation and is on 13th November 2013. It will be looking at:

  • How to use advanced search commands to find news and information on legislation
  • How to use reading level and date ranges to focus the search
  • Searching foreign language pages
  • Options for searching journals, research information, grey literature
  • Alternatives to Google, specialist tools and sites
  • Assessing quality and relevance

Both days include practical sessions and places on the workshops are limited. Contact TFPL for further information and bookings.

Workshops on business information

Zanran search on UK beef imports

A reminder that I am running two business information workshops in London in April.

The first is “Introduction to Business Research” on Thursday, 18th April. This workshop provides an introduction to many areas of business research including statistics, official company information, market information, news sources and how to build search strategies. It will cover explanations of the jargon and terminology, regulatory issues, assessing the quality of information, primary and secondary sources. Further information is available on the TFPL website.

The second is “Business information: key web resources”, which is being held the day after on Friday 19th April. This workshop looks in more detail at the resources that are available for different types of information, alerting services and free vs. fee. It also covers search strategies for tracking down industry, market and corporate reports. Details are on the TFPL website.

Both workshops include practical sessions during which you can follow the exercises provided, try out some of the enquiries you’ve recently had to tackle, or just generally explore. I am on hand during the practicals to help out with searches or advise on how to approach a particularly difficult piece of research. Be warned, though, you will be asked at the end of day to nominate, as a group, your top 10 search tips and tips. That’s when the arguments get serious!

Last year’s London workshop Top Tips are at http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2012/11/25/top-tips-for-business-information/. More recently a group in Manchester came up with a very interesting combination of search techniques and business resources (see http://www.rba.co.uk/wordpress/2013/03/07/top-tips-on-search-and-business-information/).

Forthcoming workshops

I am running three workshops in April on business information and search. All three have a practical element so that you can try out resources and techniques for yourself.

Introduction to Business Research

This is being organised by TFPL and will be held in London on Thursday, 18th April. This course provides an introduction to many areas of business research including statistics, official company information, market information, biographical information and news sources. It will cover explanations of the jargon and terminology, regulatory issues, assessing the quality of information, primary and secondary sources. Further information is available on the TFPL web site at http://www.tfpl.com/services/coursedesc.cfm?id=TR1116&pageid=-9&cs1=&cs2=f

Business information: key web resources

This is also being organised by TFPL in London and is being held on Friday, 19th April. This workshop looks in more detail at the resources that are available for different types of information, alerting services and free vs. fee. It also covers search strategies for tracking down industry, market and corporate reports. Further information is available at http://www.tfpl.com/services/coursedesc.cfm?id=TR945&pageid=-9&cs1=&cs2=f

Make Google behave: techniques for better results

This is a very popular workshop and is being organised by UKeiG. It is being held in Manchester on Tuesday, 30th April.

Topics include:

  • How Google works
  • Recent developments and their impact on search results
  • How Google personalises your results and can you stop it?
  • How to use existing and new features to focus your search and control Google
  • How and when to use Google’s specialist tools and databases
  • What Google is good at and when you should consider alternatives

The workshop will be repeated in London on Wednesday, 30th October. Details and booking information are on the UKeiG website at http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/make-google-behave-techniques-better-results-karen-blakeman

Business Information: Top Ten Tips from Bristol

The University of the West of England (UWE) hosted the UKeiG 8th September workshop on business information. The list of participants included people from academic libraries, public libraries, the legal sector and freelance researchers. The day got off to an interesting start with one of the participants telling me that a colleague of theirs thought there wasn’t any quality business information on the web! I hope I proved them wrong. Some of the materials provided on the day can be found on my web site at http://www.rba.co.uk/bi/. Please note that SocialMention, which is mentioned in the latter part of the PowerPoint presentation, has been down for nearly five days and we have to assume that it is “no more”. [Update 10th September: after nearly a week offline SocialMention is now back online].

Those of you who have attended my Google, general search or business information workshops will know that towards the end of the afternoon I always ask the group to come up with a list of top ten tips. These can be useful sites that they have discovered during the day, essential services that they already use or commands that help focus the search. A combined list of tips from previous business information workshops is at http://www.rba.co.uk/bi/TopBusInfoSearchTips.pdf. Below, in no particular order, are the new tips from the 8th September workshop.

Top Business Search Tips UWE

1. Biznar http://www.biznar.com/ Biznar is a federated search engine that runs your search in real-time in about 80 resources. There is a list on the Advanced Search screen where you can deselect individual or groups of resources. Many of the workshop participants de-selected Google Groups, which seemed to their dominate results, and some went as far as to exclude the whole Blogs and Social Networks group. The results are combined into a single list and on the left hand side of the scree are organised into folders such as Topics, Authors, Publications, Publishers and Dates. These are computer generated but can help you narrow down your search.

2. Export.gov http://export.gov/“Helping U.S. companies export”. Information on markets and doing business outside of the US. As the strap line of the web site suggest this is aimed at US companies but the reports contain information that is relevant to anyone looking at external markets.

3. Guardian Data Store http://www.guardian.co.uk/data Visualizations and mashups of data relating to major stories in the news. Links to the original datasets are provided so that you can download the raw data.

4. Company Check http://www.companycheck.co.uk/and Company Director Check http://company-director-check.co.uk/. Both services use Companies House data. Company Check provides 6 years of figures and graphs for Cash at Bank, Net Worth, Total Liabilities and Total Current Liabilities free of charge and lists the directors of a company. Click on a director’s name and you are taken to the Company Directory Check – launched last week – where you can view other current and past directorships for that person.

5. Companies House http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/. The official registry for UK companies. Services such as Company Check and Bizzy (http://bizzy.co.uk/) may provide more information free of charge but it is always worth double checking with Companies House to see if there is more up to date information. The list of documents available for a company in combination with the free services may be enough for you to make a decision on whether or not to do business with that company. Use the free WebCHeck service to locate the company in the register and then click on “Order information for this company”. You will then see a list of available documents: titles such as “Struck off and dissolved” followed by “Application for administrative restoration” might suggest that you should run a mile!

6. Zanran http://zanran.com/ This was recommended for identifying charts, graphs and tables of data in PDFs and Excel spreadsheets. Run your search and Zanran comes up with PDF and spreadsheet files that match your criteria. Hover over the file icon in your results list and you will see a preview of the page that contains your data. We did come across a few oddities: my test search on gin vodka sales uk came up with the bar menu for the Time & Space Restaurant at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. The Zanran “About us” page tells you more about what they do (http://zanran.com/help/about_us)

7. Applegate directories http://www.applegate.co.uk/ A collection of business directories for electronics, engineering, plastics, rubber, chemical, oil, gas and recruitment services covering the UK. Recommended for generating lists of companies by location.

8. Kompass http://www.kompass.com/. Well established directory with world-wide coverage (some of us can remember the black, hard copy volumes!) Search is free and some results are free. Pay as you go options are reasonably priced and there is extensive country and industry coverage.

9. Public libraries’ databases and resources. A reminder from the public libraries contingent that you can access their resources free of charge for personal use from your desktop using the identification on your library card, for example NewsUK and the The Times Digital Archive. Some library authorities also provide access to business databases.

10. Google Advanced Search Use the advanced search screen or commands to help focus your search on statistics and market research. For example use the ‘filetype:’ command to search for spreadsheets containing statistics or PDFs of industry/government reports. Use ‘site:” to focus your search on academic or government sources, for example site:ac.uk.


Business Information Workshops – September

There is a lot happening in the UK business information sector at the moment. From two of my earlier postings on company information you will probably have gathered that competition between the providers is hotting up. And if you need statistics then the open data initiatives provide direct access to raw data – possibly.

If you are interested in business information and want to get up to speed with current developments I am running a UKeiG workshop on the topic on Thursday, 8th  September. It is being held in Bristol at the Frenchay Campus of the University of the West of England. Further details are on the UKeiG web site at http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/keeping-good-company-quality-business-information-web-karen-blakeman. The emphasis will be on free and pay per view services. Please note that you do not have to be a member of UKeiG to attend, and the workshop will be relevant to all types of organisations.

If you are new to business information I am also running a workshop entitled “Introduction to Business Research” for TFPL on 15th September in London (http://www.tfpl.com/training/courses/coursedesc.cfm?id=TR1116&cid=rs)


Google workshop (Newcastle, March)

I am running a workshop “All about  Google” for UKeiG in Newcastle on March 31st. Details and booking forms are available on the UKeiG web site at http://www.ukeig.org.uk/trainingevent/all-about-google-regain-control-search-karen-blakeman

I wrote the title and description a few months ago before Google really started going to town with messing up search results, so the subtitle “regain control of search” now seems a tad over-optimistic! Readers of this blog and Phil Bradley’s  (http://philbradley.typepad.com/phil_bradleys_weblog/) will know what I mean. Just search on Google in both for recent news and comments on what Google is currently up to.  Nevertheless, I will be going through the key search features, types of search, and recent developments in Google search – there will probably be even more changes by the end of March – and there will be plenty of time for you to try out ‘stuff’ for yourselves.

A reminder that I also run in-house workshops so if you have several members of staff you would like trained, let me know. I can come to you.

My Online Information 2010 presentations

If you have not already spotted the links on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc  to the various presentations I gave at “Online” in London earlier this month here they are all in one place. I gave two talks as part of the free seminar programme that was part of the exhibition, a conference presentation and a pre-conference workshop. They all have a Creative Commons attribution non-commercial license assigned to them  (see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/ for further information on the license).

Google’s New Search Features: has it gone too far?
1st December 2010

This presentation was given in the exhibition area as part of the free seminar and masterclass programme. I have added comments to some of the screen shots so that they make a little more sense to those who were not there.

Google’s New Search Features: has it gone too far


Challenges of Finding Quality Business Information
1st December 2010

A second presentation I gave as part of the exhibition free seminar programme. Again, I have annotated some of the screen shots.


Search Engine Wars: let battle commence
30th November 2010

This is a presentation I gave as part of the Online Information conference. It is quite different from the one I gave  with the same title to INFORUM in Prague earlier this year. I wish I could say it was because so much has changed since then: unfortunately very little has changed.


Guide to Using Social Media to Promote Your Organisation and Services
29th November 2010

This was a one day workshop pre-conference workshop. The slides merely formed a framework for the day.  There were more services and issues discussed within the group than are shown in the presentation.  The link given below, which is a direct link to a ppt file on the RBA Information Services web site, will not be available indefinitely.  The presentations on my social media page are updated every time I run a workshop or give a seminar on the topic.

PowerPoint Presentation (9.5 MB)

Autumn Workshops – London

My autumn workshop and seminar schedule is now available at http://www.rba.co.uk/training/.  I am running 6 workshops under my own “banner” in London at InTuition House, Borough High Street. (I had good feedback about the venue from those who attended sessions earlier this year).

There are the three “usual suspects” which always prove popular:

Market Research on the Web, 28th October

Advanced Internet Search Strategies, 29th October

Key Business Resources on the Web, 17th November

I am also running a workshop on Web 2.0 and Social Media in the Workplace on 4th November.

There are two new half day courses that have been requested by several people. Introduction to Mashups is being held on the morning of Thursday, 5th November and in the afternoon on the same days is Getting Started on Twitter.

Full details of the workshops and booking forms can be found via the RBA Training page.

Autumn one day training courses at Manchester Business School

The following business research skills courses are being run at Manchester Business School from September to October. And yes – I have a vested interest in that I am running the market research workshop!

Maximising Your Qualitative Research Skills and Results
Wednesday 10 September
Chris Murphy
Demonstrates this vital form of enquiry needed to make sense of qualitative data. Explores schemes for planning research projects, techniques for documentary evidence, obtaining information, then forming a roadmap for taking initial results further, appraising data quality and reporting findings

Project Management
Tuesday 7 October
Chris Murphy
This course provides a set of techniques for managing projects: determining project scope, planning and realisation, project team schedule and control, progress monitoring, software packages? contribution, corrective action if the project strays from course and project reporting

Market Research on the Web
Date: Tuesday 21 October
Trainer: Karen Blakeman
Practical guidance is offered for finding and evaluating statistical, market research and industry information, covering free and fee based services. Suitable for researchers compiling analyses of markets, looking for potential partners, clients, suppliers or who are responsible for competitor intelligence

For more information about the the programme content and course dates or to download a booking form, go to www.mbs.ac.uk/bis-training or call the Business Information Service on 0161 275 6503