There are people who can find just about anything on the internet just short of hacking into top government websites. Then, there are those people who can’t find anything at all. Google can only get you so far. Then, you have to learn a few tricks to get you the rest of the way.
Speaking of Google, it really is a good way to search for just about anything. When you type in a few keywords, rather relevant sites come up in the search. Some search engines will only show you the sites that pay the most money. But, Google does a good job at creating analytics and sending out digital spiders to crawl all over websites. With all of their science put together, you can’t help but get some really relevant websites in a search.
I have a few favorite sites that I know off the top of my head, and for writing they come in handy all the time. Merriam-Webster has an online dictionary where you can verify your definitions. But, it also has a pretty good thesaurus. EBSCOhost is a research database that has literally millions of articles from newspapers, magazines and encyclopedias all over the globe. But, you need to be a subscriber. The backdoor for many of us comes from having a library card and accessing a public information network like Sailor, Maryland’s Public Information Network.
Of course, Wikipedia is a great resource that I find myself using more and more. In fact, the other day when I was writing about the 2007 Writer’s Strike, I actually looked in the Wikipedia to make sure I had my facts straight. The Wikipedia is anyone’s domain. If you know something, you can add it to the Wikipedia. But, there are editors who are on top of things too. They keep it as factual as they possibly can.
I have not even come close to scratching the surface on the great resources the internet holds. But, I hope you get what I’m saying. You can definitely tell a good resource from a bad one. And when you are looking at information that is fishy, you don’t have to disregard it. Just Google it and look at about ten other sites to see if they support that information or refute it. Then, that leads us to another issue altogether.
Some topics are so debatable that you merely have to take a side. After you do your research, you’ll hear facts from all sides and you’ll be just as confused as when you went into it. So, just make up your mind. Even though nothing says you have to choose a side, it doesn’t bode well in something you’re writing that you don’t have a side. You might be able to pull it off, but it’s not likely.
The internet literally has everything. If you don’t feel like getting up and finding the phonebook, Yellow Pages are right there. If you don’t know how much that old foreign coin is worth, Foreign Exchange sites exist all over the net. But my favorite site is the Internet Movie Database where I can literally find anything out about a movie or an actress. I love looking up the answers to trivial questions.
I have literally hundreds of websites I can visit if I have a question I need answered. When I have visitors and they ask a question, I have no problem grabbing my laptop and looking for the answer. I love watching my friends’ expressions as I find information at the drop of a dime. Yes, there are still people who really don’t know how resourceful the internet is.
When I’m writing, I like to know that my information is correct. It’s really not very credible to say something that is inaccurate when you are trying to make a point. If you had just spent a few extra minutes looking something up, you would have been able to make your point more effectively.
That’s what research is all about. And the internet makes it so much easier than it use to be. I used to have to go to the university library or make phone calls to certain resources. Now, I have it right at my fingertips. It’s best to learn your way around the internet. When you’re writing, it’s right there. It’s in the browser right next to your document. Have fun with it!