4 AWESOME Internet Research Tools for Writers

Editor’s Note: the original version of this article was first posted on the C2C in 2010.

As we begin the 21st Century, technology and the internet will play a vital role in the way writers and other artists market themselves, establish their careers, and do research. So whether we like it or not, we are going to have to get as techie and internet savvy as are our left-brained counterparts. It’s a reality we just have to live with. But because we hardly feel the need to venture out into the techie world by our own will, we can miss plenty of helpful tools that can be incredibly useful to our work. Here are a couple of tools that I’ve found incredibly useful as I’ve stumbled my way through the techie world.

  • Know How to Use Google. “I know this, already. You just type in the search item and click the button!”  Actually there’s a whole lot more to Google than you think (we’ll discuss some more about Google in #4). But I want to immediately save you tons of time by sharing you some ways in which you can find what you are looking for faster. An article in The New York Times summed up this topic pretty well, and you can read it here:10 Simple Google Search Tricks.”  The most helpful tool you will find is using the “site:” operator to limit your searches to a specific site. As the article explains, sometimes a site has a horrible search engine, or none at all, so this tip works wonders. Example: Say I’m looking for information about Mayans for my novel. I think National Geographic might have some cool things to look at, so I type in “Mayans site: nationalgeographic.com” into the google search bar. I click and I see an interesting article titled the “Maya Rise and Fall” that I’ll want to look at later. So I bookmark it and keep searching…

  • Know How to Get Good At Life. Hmmm… Let’s say you have a character who is a musician or a cook. You don’t have the money to take music classes or cooking classes for research, so what do you do? You head over to Videojug.com and get good at life. You might even find something useful for your personal life. It’s no wonder my current exercise routine was learned from VideoJug tutorials and not a personal trainer.
  • Know How to Pretend To Be A Techie. Head over to Wired.com and Mashable.com every once in a while and you’ll find you’ll be up to speed with every new gadget, technological revolution, and social networking trend that’s currently out there. Why do you need to know about this stuff? Because it’s quite possible that the next social networking trend may be the way in which you’ll break out as a successful writer or artist. The future is happening with or without you. So if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
  • Know How to Do Academic Research Without The Use of A College I.D. So Google is great for internet searches, but sometimes you need some real, concrete facts and documents you can rely on. If you feel Wikipedia is great for trivia but still don’t trust it completely for your work, then you might want to try the following:

• If you don’t want to leave Google, then check out Google Scholar or Google Books. Through Google Books, I’ve read Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I’ve even put it on my “virtual bookshelf” in case I want to pick it up some other time. Not as handy and as portable as a Kindle, since you gotta lag your laptop or PC around, but it’s a great option if you’re strapped for cash. Did I mention Google Books is free?  No late fees? No having to return it to the university library because some stupid humanities professor is requesting it? Oh, and books out of copyright can be downloaded straight to your computer? Do you want to marry Google, now? It’s ok. (I do too.)

• If you want some U.S.A. government-approved info, then head over to The Library of Congress’s website.

Finally, say you are analyzing some text in Old English, or some other challenging English for your research. Now that you are out of college, you might be saying to yourself at this point: “I wish I had a little professor I can take with me everywhere I go to explain all this to me.”  Your wish is the internet’s command!  POOF! AcademicEarth.org. I read Paradise Lost post college and now I understand Milton thanks to a professor from Yale I was never in the same room with. Now that’s amazing. Why did I ever take out a student loan?

much techie,


Are there any AWESOME Internet research tools you’ve discovered? Please share them with us in the comments below.

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28 comments on “4 AWESOME Internet Research Tools for Writers

  1. Ah Ollin. I love you for this.

  2. Conor Ebbs says:

    Hey Ollin,

    Thank you sincerely for putting this together. I will find it more difficult to disconnect from the laptop now though. 🙂



  3. K.M. Weiland says:

    Handy list. Thanks, Ollin! I would also add All Experts, a site I’ve used many times with excellent results.

  4. Christina says:

    Thanks so much Ollin!

    I really like Google Art Project (www.googleartproject.com) which lets you go on a virtual tour of the best museums around the world, and also lets you see masterpieces up close. The detail is amazing and very inspiring.

  5. rozmorris says:

    Ollin, I’m bookmarking this. Thank you!

  6. Ahlam says:

    O.M.G. You’ve just made my life so much easier!! Thank you.

  7. Been using Google like a spelling aid and dictionary for a long time now, it is really useful. Love Google to be honest, it’s just such a great search engine, and I’ve been here online, since about 1997 so I remember all the other engines who have gone bye bye. Thanks for taking the time to compile such a useful list.

  8. Kendra says:

    This was an extremely helpful post – good work!

  9. Ollin, you may not know about some other gems as well. May I share?

    1. Lifehacker – http://www.lifehacker.com

    2. Mind 42 – http://www.mind42.com (a place to mind map your research)

    Also, if you are using Firefox…you can get a bundle of add-ons to attach to FF to help with researching as well. 🙂

    • Ollin says:

      Of course, this is exactly what I had in mind. That’s why I love blogging, it’s a community sharing info with each other. Thank you!

  10. Tammy McLeod says:

    I love this post Ollin. And I know what you mean about being addicted to TED talks. I use http://www.pubmed.gov for medical studies although your google scholar may do the trick also.

  11. Tiffany says:

    Great information for anyone that has to research. I found it useful and I’ve been looking up stuff for years. LOL

  12. Gibson Goff says:

    Great article Ollin! Gave me a couple of ideas.

    I’ve used government websites a lot, State Department, etc. For travel info they may have an update on a specific region in a specific country that isn’t in the brochures. They were printed long ago, may be out of date, or simply couldn’t fit the info into their glossed over word length limit.

    Another tip is to look at the theme of, or even the opposite of what you’re researching. A ship’s registry site will give you some info on that cruise ship that the cruse line may not deem important.

    Tax records from the county or state may tell you the vacation villa you’ll be staying at is in dire straits. That equates to low morale, and that means poor customer service. See what I mean?

    Thanks for that article. You really gave me some brain food. 🙂

    • Ollin says:

      YOU just game me some great brain food. Brilliant Gibson! I feel so much smarter after reading your comment. What great, practical advice. Thank you! I’ll be using that in the future.

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