Where do I do it? The usual places – the bedroom, the family room, the coffee shop – anywhere I have internet access. Confused? Oh – you thought I was writing about that. No, not that – research. Got you again, didn’t I? All in good fun.
It has happened that my new novel requires a lot of research. Things like real estate zoning laws and amnesia. I know, I know – don’t ask. I didn’t realize the two had anything in common either. At least not until I wrote about them. I’m a big user of ABCs (AnyBody’s Computers) and I’ve gotten tired of dragging my Favorites list around on my thumb drive and putting it on each ABC that I plug it into. Especially since the polite thing to do is to delete the list when I’m done. Then last week, I wrote a post with a link to Wikipedia. The lightbulb went on in my head. I can just post about my favorite online reference sources. That way, I always have my favorites online and can share them as well. Win-win.
What are my most used references? Along with everyone else, I use Wikipedia. The articles are really quite informative. Even though I feel compelled to verify each one I use, they are a great starting point. Another favorite of mine is the Free Online Dictionary and Thesaurus; which also has tabs for medical and legal dictionaries, idioms, acronyms, it’s own encyclopedia and also Wikipedia. One stop word shopping.
For technical information, I have a monthly subscription to the O’Reilly Safari Books online library. It’s a technical book lover’s dream – like being in your favorite candy store. It doesn’t have every publisher, but it does have a goodly number. Of course, O’Reilly books are included. Even though the site requires a monthly subscription, it is far below the yearly budget I’ve previously had to set aside for individual technical books – that by their very nature are soon outdated (technology changes very quickly). The best part is that I have access to far more books than I would have been able to get if I were still buying them individually. There is a universe of titles covering everything from selections of the For Dummies series, through a myriad of programming, social media, personal improvement and internet titles, to severely geeky tomes like The Handbook of Finance.
Just recently, I’ve found a site that’s like Safari Books – but for all subjects. Questia.com. Y’all who are pros at online research probably know about it already. For me it was a revelation – complete with the choir singing in the background. 🙂 It is also a subscription site, and I think well worth it. An extremely large collection of books and scholarly journals – all online. For most items I’ve researched, Questia has all the information I need. When I do have to go the library, it’s now for second, or more often third level references.
I hope you find these links as useful as I do. Do you have reference sites that you would like to share? Leave them in comments if you do. This post will always be the only one in the References category. Enjoy!
Update: The links in this post are shortened for informational purposes. The only affiliate link is the one for Questia.
Update (11/24/2010): Adding two reference links:
Update (12/16/2010): James Scott Bell’s blog. Check out his Writer’s Page!
Update(05/24/2011): These are favorite references I’ve been using for a while: