Are you old enough to remember life before the World Wide Web? While I’ve been writing and researching my book I’ve often wondered how authors of the twentieth century (and before) managed with the limited resources available to them. Libraries were obviously around, but there are only so many reference books they can carry and if the author didn’t live in a city, access to a well-stocked library was probably difficult. Perhaps that’s why many chose to write about what they knew.
In contrast, life in the twenty-first century has seen an explosion of information. Over 70% of people in the developed world have access to the Internet, which currently hosts just under one billion websites. There is almost too much information to process and sometimes it can be bewildering knowing where to start.
Over the next three of blogs I’m going to look at 12 tips on how to use the Internet effectively to research content and background for your novel.
1) Be Thorough
I discussed this in a previous post and so I won’t dwell on it here, other than to say don’t just rely on Wikipedia. It is a great source but always check things on multiple websites to see if a common theme emerges.
2) Have patience
With so much information available it pays to take your time. Anyone can post on the Web and unfortunately this can mean that not everything is correct. You need to take time to weed out those sources of information that are at odds with everything else and build up a consensus view of what you are researching. Don’t just rely on the first post you read. Just because a post comes at the top of the search results, doesn’t automatically make it factually correct. This leads to point 3:
3) Don’t stop on the first page of search results
How often do you do a search, read the first page of hits, and then stop looking? If you’re researching something that is well documented, there is probably no harm in this (although I would argue that if you want to find a different angle you need to look beyond the usual). If you are looking for something that is proving elusive, however, keep clicking ‘next’. You will come to a point where the results are clearly less relevant and it can be considered safe to stop, but sometimes it will be on these later pages that the gem you are looking for will be found.
4) Vary your search terms
It’s amazing how sensitive search terms can be and how the inclusion or exclusion of one word can make a difference to search results. When searching for something, deliberately change your search terms. Use synonyms, alternate phrases, take out specific words if they unnecessarily narrow your search results. Depending on what you’re looking for, these small changes can deliver a range of different results.
5) Change Search Engine
‘To google’ is now a recognised verb in the Oxford English Dictionary and Google is the most widely used search engine globally. Others do exist (Bing, Yahoo, Ask.com, Lycos to name just a few) and they differ from each other in the way they search the web. When it was launched Google differentiated itself from existing search engines such as Yahoo and Alta Vista by providing more specific content, but if you are looking for something that is proving elusive, switching to one of the others may provide you with a broader range of answers.
Has this been useful? Let me know your thoughts. Tips 6-8 will follow in the next post.
If you want to know more about The Ambition & Destiny Trilogy, visit my website here.