For some writers, research is a nasty 8 letter word that should not be uttered in their presence.
For others, research is one of the most exciting parts of writing a book.
For most, whether you like to do research or not, it can drain hours of your writing time leaving you to wonder if you are ever going to get some actual writing done.
What does it mean to “research a book”?
There are a hundred different ways to answer that question with even more methods to do it in. Researching a book is basically taking the time to learn about:
- A place/location you are writing about
- A period in time you are writing about
- A culture you are writing about
It can be as simple as:
- Looking up the location on the internet to get a basic idea or traveling to that location to get a real sense of the place.
- Looking up articles written about that specific time in history or watching movies or documentaries to understand what it was like.
- Reading topics about certain cultures on the internet or learning the ins and outs by gathering books about it, articles about it, government facts, etc…
You can be as skimpy or detailed as you want. Just know that the more research you do in the beginning the less leg work you have to do while writing out your story. Less research interrupting your writing equals more time to let the magic flow from your head to your fingers.
How can you make sure you don’t get lost in Research land?
- Make a quick outline of the story you want to write. Read over it and decide what you will need to research. Take those topics and write them out on a piece of paper titled “Topics to Research”
- Set a timer for a designated amount of time and start it right before your fingers hit the keys on the keyboard or before you read the first line of whatever book you’ve checked out. When it goes off, stop what you are researching and write a little note to yourself on your “Topics to Research” paper of where you left off. That way you’ll know right where to pick up when it’s research time again. Don’t forget to check off the topics when you find what you need.
- If you find what you need on the internet, don’t just bookmark the webpage (you’ll forget about it). Either take notes of what you needed to remember or print it out. If you don’t want to print out the whole page but you don’t want to write it out either use PrintWhatYouLike.com. It’s an amazing website that lets you delete what you don’t want on a webpage (like the adds, comments, menus, etc…) and just print what’s important to you. It saves on the amount of ink and paper you use and it makes it easier to find what you are looking for when you go back over it.
- After you have checked off all the topics on your list, go back and highlight what information you think you will actually include in the book. and line it up with where you think it will fit in your outline.
Here are some links to help your find the information you might be looking for.
Links to Information/Data
- APBOnline.com: APB Online is a crime blog that exclusively covers current crime news. It was set up with the goal of bringing the latest police and criminal cases into the limelight. Since its inception, it has worked towards ensuring that this end is met by researching and investigating some of the most horrid and out of place crime stories. Behind APB Online, there is a team of dedicated journalists passionate about their work.
- Answers.com: The worlds largest community for sharing questions and answers.
- Blackfacts.com : A searchable database of events in black history.
- ePodunk.com : A website that profiles communities in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the UK. It provides geocoded information that includes local museums, attractions, parks, colleges, libraries, cemeteries and other features, as well as local history and trivia. The site contains vintage postcards that its users can send online.
- FedStats.gov : provides easy access to statistics and information produced by more than 100 U.S. Federal Government agencies.
- GeoHive.com : a site with all kinds of population statistics. The main component is tabulated population statistics: current, historical, estimates, projections, cities, agglomerations, etc. But also geopolitical data like the administrative divisions of countries (provinces, counties and such) of all nations of this world. In the resources section one can find a long list of national statistical agencies and other interesting resources.
- Google Earth : lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean
- InfoPlease.com : has definitive answers to all your questions, from trivia to sports to news and history. Site includes an atlas, dictionary, encyclopedia, etc…
- Internet Public Library : a searchable database for resources by subject, newspapers, magazines, and special collections.
- Lawcrawler.com : research the law and find out the lastest legal news.
- MapQuest : Find maps of cities and routes to certain locations.
- Names.org : Interactive visual exploration of baby name popularity. Search naming maps and graphs. Explore detailed statistics and info about names.
- Occupation Outlook Handbook : a guide to career information about hundreds of occupations.
- RefDesk : free and family friendly web site that indexes and reviews quality, credible, and current web-based reference resources
- State Health Facts : trusted information on national health issues.
- The Library of Congress : The Library of Congress is the research library that officially serves the United States Congress, but which is the de facto national library of the United States. It is the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States.
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac : free long range weather forecasts, full moon dates, weather history, sun rise and set times, best planting dates, and folklore
- U.S. Census Bureau: the official source for U.S. export and import statistics and regulations governing the reporting of exports from the U.S.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine : Part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Library of Medicine offers access to health information for consumer, patient, and physicians
- Wikipedia : The free encyclopedia that if filled out by volunteers on the internet. You can information on just about anything but check to make sure the information is correct.
- Wikiquote : a compendium of sourced quotations from notable people and creative works in every language.
- Wikisource : a free content library of source texts.
- YouTube.com : YouTube is a video-sharing website that has videos of almost anything you could possible imagine.
- Alltop.com : All the top headlines from popular topics around the web.
- Memeorandum.com : arranges all the day’s must-read political news and opinion pieces in a single, easy-to-scan page. It auto-generates a news summary every 5 minutes, drawing on experts and pundits, insiders and outsiders, media professionals and amateur bloggers
- Popurls.com : the mother of news aggregators, a single page that encapsulates up-to-the-minute headlines from the most popular sites on the internet
Word Reference Links
- AcronymFinder.com : With more than 1,000,000 human-edited definitions, Acronym Finder is the world’s largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, etc…
- Medilexicon.com : contains medical searches, news and resources for medical, pharmaceutical and healthcare professionals
- Symbols.com : A large collection of symbols and signs found in Western Culture and esoteric schools of thought.
- TechTerms.com: A searchable dictionary of computer terms with definitions explained in simple language
- Urban Dictionary : Internet dictionary of slang words and phrases. More than 5 million street lingo words and expressions have been defined by the Internet community.
- Websters Dictionairy : Free searchable dictionary and thesaurus, word games, a word of the day, and many other English language and vocabulary reference tools and resources
- A.nnotate.com : online document review, annotation, collaboration, discussion, sticky notes, pdf indexing, pdf markup, sticky notes online, comments on web
- PrintWhatYouLike.com : lets you print the good parts of any web page while skipping ads and other junk
- Zotero.org : a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources