Using Nexis Data Lab to Uncover Fresh and Relevant Insights

27 May 2021 15:00

Biden FCPA EnforcementNexis Data Lab served up in a laptop showing a simple interface to search and interact with news content

There are those for whom research gets the blood pumping and the ideas flowing. One such person is Tracey Boylston, manager of data service solutions at Nexis® and an experienced researcher with a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University. Tracey helped to shape our newest offering, Nexis® Data Lab, and we asked her for some tips on how her fellow researchers can make the most of this new tool.

Query like there’s no tomorrow.

Tracey says that Nexis Data Lab’s best overall attribute is how easy it is to query a huge volume of content and how results are returned within minutes. Other solutions don’t have the depth and breadth of content and can take days or even weeks to return results.

“When it’s this easy and fast to query, it’s fun following all of your hunches to see what you find,” Tracey says. “This sort of playful, open-ended approach to research can lead one to some unexpected and potentially breakthrough ideas. Plus, it increases the odds that you come up a promising finding that you can then attempt to reverse engineer.”

Big data query on laptop screen

Start in a different place.

It’s tempting to begin a lot of research with news and business data, but Tracey often encourages people to start with other content first.

“You’re often more apt to discover something truly fresh if you approach your subject matter from a different or unexpected angle,” says Tracey.

For instance, Tracey encourages fellow researchers to consider taking their first step by diving into the deep and unmatched legal content in Nexis Data Lab—even if what they’re researching has nothing to do with legal matters. Tracey suggests that researchers think of it not so much as legal content, but as a rich and varied landscape for natural language exploration.

As an example, Tracey points to the abundance of patent content in Nexis Data Lab. “When companies file a patent for a new product, they typically submit the exact same application in multiple countries and, of course, different languages,” Tracey says. “One can, in essence, forget that they’re dealing with patent content and, instead, simply see it as a means to create and refine a linguistic engine.”

Enrichments: Use them to reduce noise. 

There’s no denying the benefits of Nexis Data Lab’s enriched news content, since it goes well beyond the basic and mandatory metadata, such as publication name, location and date. For instance, the SUBJECTS /TOPICs with a relevance score—meaning, is the content, say,10% about the topic, or more like 80%? This allows researchers to, in essence, select for content that is mostly or entirely devoted to their topic of interest.

In addition, Data Lab also provides insight into negative article sentiment. This allows a fast read on the overall “tone” of the content selected. These enrichments help researchers more quickly get from hunch to hypotheses.

That said, there is no denying some element of subjectivity in these enrichments. But a researcher can embrace these as a control, easily suppress them, and then run her or his own analysis to compare to the Nexis Data Lab results, refining along the way.

“Of course, this is where you need some runway,” says Tracey. “You need to, for example, test over a ten-year period, refine and then test another ten-year period. This is where the depth of Nexis content, some of it 40 years old, can make all the difference.”

Go global.

Ours is a big world and, with increasing frequency, research projects require an examination of relevant content from multiple countries and cultures. This is an unmatched strength of Nexis Data Lab. With such global breadth and depth, researchers can explore their topic through a variety of voices and perspectives. It’s this diversity that helps ensure one’s findings are more reflective of our diverse, nuanced world.

“While researchers are trained to be attentive to biases, sometimes we’re simply unaware of them,” says Tracey. “By examining a wider swath of content from around the world, the greater the odds that we eliminate, or at least dramatically reduce, unattended cultural or political bias in our findings.”

Get to the experimenting faster.

Tracey is fond of comparing Nexis Data Lab to those services that deliver meals ready for preparation at home.

“Data Lab saves researchers so much time that would otherwise be spent chasing down promising hypotheses… the way those meal delivery services spare you the time spent shopping for and prepping the ingredients,” she says. “After all, the fun part of preparing meals isn’t the shopping, but the actual cooking. And the most rewarding part of research is discovering something new and promising that excites you. That’s what Nexis Data Lab helps you do.”

To learn more about the power of Nexis Data Lab to lead you to some promising and potentially publishable research findings, contact us at

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