Please don’t sigh in frustration now. I know research can be a deadly tiring subject and searching books for hours simply boring. I get it. I’ve been there too. More than once. Research is time consuming, but who said writing a book is easy?
The amount of time you need to research depends highly on the selected genre, your topic and of course how much you already know about it. One of the most time intensive genres certainly are historical novels. Wrong seasons or the usage of not yet invented weapons won’t be taken kindly by some readers. It’s part of your job as an author to know relevant information. You expect a baker to know the amount of flour and yeast to use as well. Don’t mindlessly disappoint your readers with wrong facts.
Besides it was never easier to get answers and information than in todays digital age. You don’t even have to leave your home!
Wikipedia: This virtual reference book is probably the most widely used. With over 5.2 million articles you have a wide variety of information at the tip of your fingers. Remember that everyone can add his or her share of knowledge, which provides a bulk of up-to-date information, but with no guarantee of accuracy. Unfortunately there are always some idiots who find it funny to misinform, so be careful and always a little sceptical. As a side note: be aware that Wikipedia is no valid source of information for writing scientific papers.
Scholarpedia: Contrary to Wikipedia this platform only allows scientists and experts to write content, which ensures the quality of the articles. There are even some nobel prize winners among the contributors! The downside of this is the meager amount of only 2’300 entries.
Encyclopedia Britannica Online: This little gem of wisdom contains arount 120’000 articles which are updated on a regular basis. Everyone is able to contribute if you are willing to provide your real name, but each change will be reviewed by experts.
Always take information you find online with a grain of salt.
What distance can a horse cross in a day? When was Napoleon alive? How long is a piece of string? Google knows everything. Beside the normal Google engine there is also scholar.google.de which you can use for scientific papers.
You may not want to look for facts on blogs, but especially for getting to know a country through the eyes of a traveler is enlightening and a source I use all the time. Facts like the number of inhabitants or the population density may not be as relevant as personal experience stories. Travel blogs tell you how they experienced a country and in which way the people and environment were unique, similar and different.
The classic among all resources. You can easily look up any information in a book. They are available on almost any topic and if you’re trying to save money you can always look it up at your local library.
Depending on the topic it might be important to watch the release date of the book in question. Pluto is still a planet in one of my old astronomy books! 🙂
Research doesn’t have to be dry texts. Why not ask a befriended doctor for his daily grind and ways to cope with stress? You don’t know one? Head to a medical forum and post a question there. Most people are willing to help and provide information.
Museums and exhibitions
Don’t you just love visiting a museum and learning something new? Ok, my motivation highly depends on the theme. While I love space museums or a botanical garden you may have to force me into an art exhibition. Especially modern art. Sorry guys.
Anyways. Cultural history, art, crafts, science and technology. You name it. There are many museums and exhibitions you can visit. Rather than only reading about something you can actually look at stuff and maybe even touch it. You can even book a tour to get someone to tell you all you want to know. Get going. It’s fun.
Try it out yourself
If you want to know what happens, if a person takes a bath with a hair dryer, then this kind of research is definitely NOT for you! On the other hand, if it’s about getting to know another country or the hobby of your protagonist or the feeling of attending a live concert, then experiencing these kind of things firsthand is gold. Trying something yourself gives you knowledge and experience. Compare looking at a picture of the ocean to standing on the beach yourself and you will know what I mean. You cannot hear the roaring of the waves or the feeling of the wind in your hair or smell the salty air. No image can convey this.
As you can see there is a sea of different methods to get to know your specific topic and especially visiting museums and exhibitions as well as trying things for yourself are lots of fun. I hope you’ll enjoy your research from now on. Let us know what method you like the most.
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