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