Sep 28, 2011

Research for your WIP

I'm a bit behind on my mid-week post this week, due to news blogging stuff and the fact I can't tear myself away from my new WIP, Things We Save. This one is set mainly in Israel on an archaeological dig. The plot involves a mosaic and a talisman coin, a hidden vault and a prophet's tomb. Oh, and a movie star to make it all super interesting. (doesn't that sound COOL?) While I spent a summer on an Israeli dig in college, it's been a few decades while so I've been hitting the books and online for research. I absolutely love to do research, have a lot of practice with it and thought I'd share a few tips for those of you thinking about branching out in your writing.

Besides the most obvious site - Google is my home page, is it yours? - check out Google Scholar when you get a chance. When you visit its homepage, be sure to look over the tutorial by clicking the 'about google scholar' link just below the title. Then set your customizations before you do your search. Click on the little blue 'advanced scholar search' link right next to the search button. You'll get a screen that lets you choose what kind of search words, author, if you need a specific publication, collections and legal docs. This site is great for medical or legal research.



Then there's diigo.com,
an online research storage site for everything you collect. While this is an excellent tool for teachers (who can share research links with an entire class for a project!) it also offers highlighting, bookmarks and sticky notes for those documents you pulled up in Google Scholar. Plus - and this is the awesome part - you have access to what everyone else has found who is searching for the same topic you are. Once you set up your account, you can organize it all by document type (image, doc, notes, etc.) in Your Library. You can also tag everything you save with key words, so it's easier for you to find later. I used this a LOT in graduate school because it's great for provenance - or proving your research is valid/authentic.


Next is the Library of Congress's research site. Practically the whole institution is online *gasp* which is a really big deal because the place is ginormous. (Can you imagine the time it took to type all those books into a database? They must have whole colonies of library elves!) They've got everything from other libraries' catalogues - 300 of them and counting! - to a bibliography of Korean history to a whole archive on how to find stuff within the archives. *minor hyperventilation followed by chocolate intake* I could spend days in here. Days. Take a browse and don't be surprised if you lose a few hours improving your brain. :)

The last tool is one used a lot in classrooms (or it should be) and I'm adding it for its simplicity and educational content. WebQuest
will walk you through the steps of online research, explaining how to find, how to share and how to organize. One really cool tool is the QuestGarden, which allows you to move your documents around from one server to the other - ie from an Apple computer to a PC. This site is targeted at educators but the tools/info here are extremely helpful for newbies...or a great site to check if your topic has hit a brick wall with any of the other sites.

What are your favorite research tools/sites? Please share in the comments. And plan to stop back soon. Interview with two blogging queens/debut authors are in the works. You won't want to miss!

13 comments:

Lisa L. Regan said...

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing. Your WIP sounds awesome. I love when I get that enthralled in a WIP.

Sarah Pearson said...

There are some great links here, thank you. My research up to now usually just involves typing a question into the google search bar and seeing what comes up :-)

Jenny S. Morris said...

The book idea sounds great. I would love to go to Israel someday. Thanks for the great research tools.

Carrie Butler said...

Great resources, Melodie! Thanks for sharing!

P.S. Your WIP sounds fantastic! :D

Angelina C. Hansen said...

Thanks for this. I'll have to star this post so I can remember all these great resources!

Medeia Sharif said...

I use Google and Wikipedia the most, but I'll take note of the other ones you posted.

Your wip sounds interesting. :)

Iain said...

I have to confess, I tend to use Google or Wikipedia.
Google Maps streetview is great for checking places out. It's helped me shedloads on my new WIP.
Think I'll check these new ones out. There's some stuff that I need go into in more depth on for my new project.

Melodie Wright said...

Thanks for stopping by all!

A note about Wikipedia - since it's a wiki and content can be changed by anyone, it's a great first source...but it's always a good idea to verify whatever you find by an official source. Wikipedia is great at telling you if there's unverified info (just came an article so tagged today!) and when you see that, it's a huge red flag that the wiki article lacks reliability.

E.R. King said...

Great resources! The Library of Congress is at the top of my list.

Julie Musil said...

Ooooh, I haven't heard of some of these sites. Thanks!

Toby Speed said...

Great ideas, thanks. I just happened upon your site, and am doing research for my next novel now.

carrieannebrownian said...

Since I write historical fiction (20th century), I've found a lot of good web resources at historical sites devoted to the various decades I cover (Forties, Sixties, Twenties, etc.). I also found a really good online dictionary of American slang (noting the decade each word was coined) that's been helping me root out unintentionally anachronistic slang in my books.

Rachel Morgan said...

Research and Google Scholar and articles and journals remind me of my masters... which I ended up seriously disliking! I've never used diigo though. Looks the kind of organisation I'd enjoy :-)