Research on Legal Help Online

This page contains resources for academic- and practitioner-researchers, who want to both understand the status quo of the legal Internet — and who want to create and evaluate new interventions to improve it.




Research on how people use the Internet to find legal help

Denvir, Catrina. “What Is the Net Worth? Young People, Civil Justice and the Internet.” University College London, 2014.

Denvir, Catrina, Nigel J. Balmer, and Pascoe Pleasence. “Surfing the Web – Recreation or Resource? Exploring How Young People in the UK Use the Internet as an Advice Portal for Problems with a Legal Dimension.” Interacting with Computers 23, no. 1 (January 2011): 96–104.

Denvir, Catrina. “Online and in the Know? Public Legal Education, Young People and the Internet.” Computers and Education 92–93 (2016): 204–20.

Denvir, Catrina, Nigel J. Balmer, and Pascoe Pleasence. “Portal or Pot Hole? Exploring How Older People Use the ‘Information Superhighway’ for Advice Relating to Problems with a Legal Dimension.” Ageing and Society 34, no. 04 (December 7, 2012): 670–99.

Pleasence, Pascoe, Nigel J. Balmer, and Catrina Denvir. “Wrong about Rights: Public Knowledge of Key Areas of Consumer, Housing and Employment Law in England and Wales.” Modern Law Review 80, no. 5 (September 1, 2017): 836–59.

Balmer, Nigel J, Alexy Buck, Ash Patel, Catrina Denvir, and Pascoe Pleasence. “Knowledge, Capability and the Experience of Rights Problems: Report for PLEnet.” London, UK, 2010.

Balmer, Nigel J., Marisol Smith, Catrina Denvir, and Ash Patel. “Just a Phone Call Away: Is Telephone Advice Enough?” Journal of Social Welfare …, 2012, 1–32.

Pleasence, Pascoe T, Nigel J Balmer, and Catrina Denvir. “Navigating the Legal Advice Maze-Knowledge, Expectations and the Reality of Advice Seeking.” Accessed January 25, 2020.

Hagan, Margaret. “The Justice Is in the Details: Evaluating Different Self-Help Designs for Legal Capability in Traffic Court.” Journal of Open Access to the Law 7, no. 1 (2019).

Hagan, Margaret. “The User Experience of the Internet as a Legal Help Service : Defining Standards for the next Generation of User-Friendly Online Legal Services.” Va. JL & Tech. 20, no. 2 (2016): 395–465.

Ronkainen, Anna. “Software Usability and Legal Informatics.” Available at SSRN 2162380, 2012, 1–10.

Clarke, John A, and Bryan D. Borys. “Usability Is Free: Improving Efficiency by Making the Court More User Friendly.” Future Trends in State Courts, 2011.

Mastarone, Ginnifer L., and Susan Feinberg. “Access to Legal Services : Organizing Better Self-Help Systems.” 2007 IEEE International Professional Communication Conference, October 2007, 1–5.




Research on legal taxonomies, ontologies, and semantic web

This collection of resources is about how we can standardize legal concepts and resources, to improve how people find and use them — and how to make more automation and tools that can build on top of them.

Manzoli, Serena. “Taxonomies Make the Law. Will Folksonomies Change It?” VoxPopuII, Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. Ithaca, NY, April 2013.

Costantini, Federico. “#Unfair #Law: Folksonomies & Law between Openness and Knowledge.” In CEUR Workshop Proceedings, Vol. 1105, 2014.

Lauritsen, Marc. “Intelligent Tools for Managing Legal Choices.” Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law – ICAIL ’11, 2011, 106–10.

Moens, Marie-Francine, Erik Boiy, Raquel Mochales Palau, Chris Reed, and Raquel Mochales Palau. “Automatic Detection of Arguments in Legal Texts.” Proceedings of the International Conference on AI & Law, 2007, 225–30.

Despres, Sylvie, and Sylvie Szulman. “Construction of a Legal Ontology from a European Community Legislative Text.” Jurix, 2004, 79–88.

Breuker, Joost, Abdullatif Elhag, Emil Petkov, and Radboud Winkels. “Ontologies for Legal Information Serving and Knowledge Management,” n.d.

Casellas, Nuria. “Semantic Enhancement of Legal Information… Are We Up for the Challenge?” VoxPopuLII, 2011.…-are-we-up-for-the-challenge-revised-repost/

Mommers, Laurens. “On the Ontological Status and Representation of Legal Concepts.” Proceedings of the Eleventh Conference of Legal Knowledge-Based Systems (JURIX’98), 1998, 45–58.





Research on how people use the Internet to solve problems

Much of this research comes from engineers, designers, information scientists, and computer scientists. You can search for more in the ACM Library. Sometimes it is framed around Information Retrieval (discovering appropriate resources for a problem). Sometimes it is around User Engagement, Experience, and Learning Gains (measuring how people use and benefit from online resources).

Ortiz-Cordova, Adan, and Bernard J Jansen. “Site-Searching Strategies of Searchers Referred from Search Engines.” Accessed January 3, 2021.

Jiang, Jiepu, Daqing He, and James Allan. “Searching, Browsing, and Clicking in a Search Session: Changes in User Behavior by Task and over Time.” In SIGIR 2014 – Proceedings of the 37th International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval, 607–16. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, 2014.

Wu, Zhijing, Mark Sanderson, B. Barla Cambazoglu, W. Bruce Croft, and Falk Scholer. “Providing Direct Answers in Search Results: A Study of User Behavior.” In International Conference on Information and Knowledge Management, Proceedings. 2020, pp 1635-1644. 

Bilal, Dania, and Joe Kirby. “Differences and Similarities in Information Seeking: Children and Adults as Web Users.” Accessed November 7, 2019.

Rose, Daniel E, and Danny Levinson. “Understanding User Goals in Web Search.” In Thirteenth International World Wide Web Conference Proceedings, WWW2004, 13–19, 2004.

Kohli, Shruti, Sandeep Kaur, and Gurrajan Singh. “A Website Content Analysis Approach Based on Keyword Similarity Analysis,” 2012.

Reinecke, Katharina, Tom Yeh, Luke Miratrix, Rahmatri Mardiko, Yuechen Zhao, Jenny Liu, and Krzysztof Z Gajos. “Predicting Users’ First Impressions of Website Aesthetics With a Quantification of Perceived Visual Complexity and Colorfulness,” n.d.

Hannak, Aniko, Piotr Sapiezynski, Arash Molavi Kakhki, Balachander Krishnamurthy, David Lazer, Alan Mislove, and Christo Wilson. “Measuring Personalization of Web Search.” In Proceedings of the 22nd International Conference on World Wide Web – WWW ’13, 527–38. New York, New York, USA: ACM Press, 2013.

Robertson, Ronald E., Shan Jiang, Kenneth Joseph, Lisa Friedland, David Lazer, and Christo Wilson. “Auditing Partisan Audience Bias within Google Search.” Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction 2, no. CSCW (November 1, 2018): 1–22.

Epstein, Robert, and Ronald E Robertson. “The Search Engine Manipulation Effect (SEME) and Its Possible Impact on the Outcomes of Elections,” 2015.

Manning, Christopher D., Prabhakar. Raghavan, and Hinrich. Schütze. Introduction to Information Retrieval. Cambridge University Press, 2008.




Research on Internet interventions to solve social problems

Cheng, Qijin, and Elad Yom-Tov. “Do Search Engine Helpline Notices Aid in Preventing Suicide? Analysis of Archival Data.” Journal of Medical Internet Research 21, no. 3 (March 1, 2019): e12235.

Sillence, Elizabeth, and Pam Briggs. “Please Advise: Using the Internet for Health and Financial Advice,” 2004.

Heussner, Ki Mae. “Google ‘Suicide’ Search Feature Offers Lifeline.” ABC News, 2019.

Aramaki, Eiji, Sachiko Maskawa, and Mizuki Morita. “Twitter Catches The Flu : Detecting Influenza Epidemics Using Twitter.” Proceedings of the 2011 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing 2011 (2011): 1568–76.

Young, Sean D. “A ‘Big Data’ Approach to HIV Epidemiology and Prevention.” Preventive Medicine, 2015.

Eckhoff, Philip A., and Andrew J. Tatem. “Digital Methods in Epidemiology Can Transform Disease Control.” International Health, March 1, 2015.

Salathé, Marcel, Linus Bengtsson, Todd J. Bodnar, Devon D. Brewer, John S. Brownstein, Caroline Buckee, Ellsworth M. Campbell, et al. “Digital Epidemiology.” Edited by Philip E. Bourne. PLoS Computational Biology 8, no. 7 (July 26, 2012): e1002616.

Burris, Scott, Alexander C Wagenaar, Jeffrey Swanson, Jennifer K Ibrahim, Jennifer Wood, and Michelle M Mello. “Making the Case for Laws That Improve Health: A Framework for Public Health Law Research.” The Milbank Quarterly 88, no. 2 (2010): 169.

Thangarajan, Narendran, Nella Green, Amarnath Gupta, Susan Little, and Nadir Weibel. “Analyzing Social Media to Characterize Local HIV At-Risk Populations.” In Proceedings of the Conference on Wireless Health – WH ’15, 15:1–8, 2015.

Susumpow, Patipat, Patcharaporn Pansuwan, Nathalie Sajda, and Adam W Crawley. “Participatory Disease Detection through Digital Volunteerism.” In Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on World Wide Web – WWW ’14 Companion, 663–66, 2014.

Ho, Daniel E., and Kristen M Altenburger. “When Algorithms Import Private Bias into Public Enforcement: The Promise and Limitations of Statistical Debiasing Solutions.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics 175, no. 1 (2018): 98.



Research on measuring quality and value of online resources

Suh, Hyewon, Nina Shahriaree, Eric B Hekler, and Julie A Kientz. “Developing and Validating the User Burden Scale.” In Proceedings of the 2016 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems – CHI ’16, 3988–99, 2016.

Jain, Mohit, Pratyush Kumar, Ramachandra Kota, and Shwetak N Patel. “Evaluating and Informing the Design of Chatbots,” 895–906, 2018.

Lagun, Dmitry, and Mounia Lalmas. “Understanding and Measuring User Engagement and Attention in Online News Reading.” In WSDM 2016 – Proceedings of the 9th ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining, 113–22. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc, 2016.

Lalmas, Mounia, and Liangjie Hong. “Tutorial on Metrics of User Engagement: Applications to News, Search and E-Commerce.” In WSDM 2018 – Proceedings of the 11th ACM International Conference on Web Search and Data Mining, 2018-Febuary:781–82. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc, 2018.

Roy, Nirmal, Felipe Moraes, and Claudia Hauff. “Exploring Users’ Learning Gains within Search Sessions.” In CHIIR 2020 – Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Human Information Interaction and Retrieval, 432–36. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery, Inc, 2020.

Eliason, Emma, and Jonas Lundberg. “The Appropriateness of Swedish Municipality Web Site Designs.” Accessed May 9, 2018.

Lai, Cora Sio Kuan, and Guilherme Pires. “Testing of a Model Evaluating E-Government Portal Acceptance and Satisfaction.” The Electronic Journal Information Systems Evaluation 13, no. 1 (2010): 35–46.

Tsohou, Aggeliki, Information Systems Evaluation, Habin Lee, Zahir Irani, Vishanth Weerakkody, Ibrahim Osman, Business Information, Decision Systems, Abdel Anuz Latif, and Tunc Medeni. “Evaluating E-Government Services From a Citizens ’ Perspective : A Reference Process” 2012, no. May 2014 (2012): 146–53.

Barendrecht, Maurits. A Handbook for Measuring the Costs and Quality of Access to Justice, 2010.




Work on markup, semantic web, and search companies

This thread of research has fewer academic studies, and comes more from practitioners at technology companies or SEO consultants. “How We Work,” n.d.

Guha, R. V., Dan Brickley, and Steve MacBeth. “Schema.Org: Evolution of Structured Data on the Web.” Queue 13, no. 9 (November 1, 2015): 10–37.

Price, Chuck. “What Is Schema Markup & Why It’s Important for SEO.” Search Engine Journal, 2019.

Montti, Roger. “Google Confirms That Structured Data Improves Targeting.” Search Engine Journal, April 3, 2018.

PCMag. “Google Is Making It Easy to Find Where and When You Can Vote.” Accessed November 23, 2020.

Hansell, Saul. “Google Keeps Tweaking Its Search Engine – New York Times.” The New York Times, 2007.

Grind, By Kirsten, Sam Schechner, Robert Mcmillan, and John West. “How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results.” The Wall Street Journal, 2019.

Meusel, Robert, Dominique Ritze, and Heiko Paulheim. “Towards More Accurate Statistical Profiling of Deployed Schema.Org Microdata.” Journal of Data and Information Quality 8, no. 1 (October 1, 2016): 1–31.

MargaretResearch on Legal Help Online