Online Research Tools

Online Research Tools and Investigative Techniques
by the BBC’s ace online sleuth Paul Myers has long been a starting point for online research by GIJN readers. His website, Research Clinic, is rich in research links and “study materials.”

See also Myers’ other guides on

Using Twitter to Find People at the Scene of a Breaking Story

Customise your Browser: Using Add-ons for your Web Research

Browser Add-ons (Part 2): Traveling Back in Time

The Open Source Intelligence Framework is a very detailed and ever-growing list of digital investigative tools.

GIJN’s Investigative Toolbox, a column by GIJN’s Alastair Otter, explores selected topics:

Digging for People, Trawling the Web and Keeping Yourself Safe

Backgrounding People and Companies

Mine Twitter and Monitor Website Updates

Beyond Spreadsheets and Deep Searching the Web

IntelTechniques is prepared by Michael Bazzell, a former US government computer crime investigator and now an author and trainer. IntelTechniques is the utility knife of online investigations. IntelTechniques is not just one tools but a collection of dozens of tools for searching across web quickly. The power of most of IntelTechniques tools is that you can search dozens of sources simultaneously. See the conveniently organized resources in left column under “Tools.” (An Oct. 17, 2018, blog post discusses newly added material.) Here, he discusses searching for car owners. There’s a newsletter and he conducts trainings, too.

Online Methods to Investigate the Who, Where, and When of a Person. Another great list by Internet search expert Henk Van Ess.

Searching the Deep Web, by Giannina Segnini. Beginning with advanced tips on sophisticated Google searches, this presentation at GIJC17 by the director of Columbia University Journalism School’s Data Journalism Program moves into using Google as a bridge to the Deep Web using a drug trafficking example. Discusses tracking the container, the ship, and customs. Plus, Facebook research and more.

Tools, Useful Links & Resources, by Raymond Joseph, a journalist and trainer with South Africa’s Southern Tip Media. Six packed pages of information on Twitter, social media, verification, domain and IP information, worldwide phonebooks, and more. In a related GICJ17 presentation, Joseph described “How to be Digital Detective.” 

AML RightSource, a private US firm “solely focused on Anti-Money Laundering (AML)/Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and financial crimes compliance solutions,” put together a packed sheet of resources.

Investigate with Document Cloud, by Doug Haddix, Executive Director, Investigative Reporters and Editors. A guide to using 1.6 million public documents shared by journalists, analyzing and highlighting your own documents, collaborating with others, managing document workflows and sharing your work online.

Malachy Browne’s Toolkit. More than 80 links to open source investigative tools by one of the best open-source sleuths in the business. When this New York Times senior story producer flashed this slide at the end of his packed GIJC17 session, nearly everyone requested access.

Social Media Sleuthing, by Michael Salzwedel. “Not Hacking, Not Illegal,” begins this presentation from GIJC17 by a founding partner and trainer at Social Weaver.

Finding Former Employees, by James Mintz. “10 Tips on Investigative Reporting’s Most Powerful Move: Contacting Formers,” according to veteran private investigator Mintz, founder and president of The Mintz Group.

Investigative Research Links from Margot Williams. The former research editor at The Intercept offers an array of suggestions, from “Effective Google Searching” to a list of “Research Guru” sites.

Bellingcat’s Online Investigative Toolkit  includes a wide variety of resources: on maps, geo-based searches, images, social media, transport, data visualization, experts and more.

Bureau Local collaborative investigative journalism tools is a crowd-sourced spreadsheet of more than 80 listings, some of them research tools, sponsored by the UK-based Bureau of of Investigative Journalism.

Tools for Reporters by Samantha Sunne, provides regular e-mails on new tricks, such as Finding emails when they don’t want to be found.

List of Tools for Social Media Research, a tipsheet from’s Frederik Fischer at GIJC15.

SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox from the Society of Professional Journalists in the US, curated by Mike Reilley. Includes an extensive list of, well, tools.

How to find an academic research paper, by David Trilling, a staff writer for Journalist’s Resource, based at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. has a list of international telephone directories.

Using deep web search engines for academic and scholarly research, an article by Chris Stobing in VPN & Privacy, a publication of, a UK company that aims to help consumers make more savvy decisions when they subscribe to tech services such as VPNs.

Step by step guide to safely accessing the darknet and deep web, an article by Paul Bischoff in VPN & Privacy, a publication of, a UK company that aims to help consumers make more savvy decisions when they subscribe to tech services such as VPNs.

Research Beyond Google: 56 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources, a resource from Open Education Database, a US firm that provides a comprehensive online education directory for both free and for-credit learning options.

The Engine Room, a US-based international NGO, created an Introduction to Web Resources, that includes a section on making copies of information to protect it from being lost or changed.

Awesome Public Datasets, a very large community-built compilation organized by topic.

Resources from A multitude of resources from a company that created an integrated bookmarks manager. The free library contains five pages with hundreds of links:

Search Engines:

Databases, for example, is a page with links to a wide range of material, about stolen property, weather, hacking, media, traffic, analytics, domain registration, buildings, animals, drones, finance and more.

Bates InfoTips, by Mary Ellen Bates, is a good source of up-to-date ideas, such as Limiting Google News searches by time and Finding people through Facebook Graph Search. Bates is ” founder and principal of Bates Information Services Inc. and a long-time info geek.”

Research Buzz wrote Going Old School to Solve A Google Search Problem to describe a method to exclude certain sites from search results.

MakeUseOf regularly features good tips, such as 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private.

6 Unique & Free Keyword Research Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed, from Search Engine Journal.

This Tool Shows Exposed Cameras Around Your Neighbourhood, an article in Motherboard explaining how Kamerka can take an address, landmark, or coordinates and display exposed internet connected cameras on a map.

Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) Reconnaissance, a long article by “researcher-writer-hacker-tinkerer”Ian Barwise in Medium covers techniques such as “Google dorking.”

After the GDPR: researching domain name registrations  A look at the impact of the European General Data Protection Regulation, which makes researching domain name registrations harder, necessitating different tools and techniques, according to OSINTCurious.