Suggestions for research tools?

If you've come across a great book, Web site, organization, etc., that you find particularly useful for writers, share it here.
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Suggestions for research tools?

Postby edburdett » Tue Jan 15, 2013 12:05 am

When I was a college student I had access to Galileo I've been know to use Questia at as well though it's a wee bit expensive.

I'm interested in what kind of resources other writers use.... Ye olde public library? Unreliable Wikipedia?

I'm also interested in what sorts of tools others use to organize, cite, etc. Stuff like Zotero

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Re: Suggestions for research tools?

Postby shadowwalker » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:38 am

I use Wikipedia as a starting point, in that it gives me ideas of what to look for from more reputable sources. (It also acts as a filter, because if I see the same thing on another site, I know to disregard the whole site.) Depending on what I'm researching, I'll look for journals or other "expert" sites, or I'll look for blogs or other ways of contacting people individually.

I should add, I'm not a good "face-to-face" researcher, so while it's very good to be able to meet with or call people for info, I much prefer finding a contact email addie. That can often result in more detailed info and easier exchange of questions/answers, as people don't have to rush or set up an appointment, etc, and if you think of something later on, just shoot them another email to be answered at their discretion.
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Re: Suggestions for research tools?

Postby mammamaia » Tue Jan 15, 2013 11:59 am

my first stop is google...

while i will often check out what wikipedia has to say, i never rely solely on what i find there, as it's notoriously unreliable due to the info submitters being just ordinary folk and no vetting done on authenticity of the material... however, it's not a bad place to get a start on finding reliable sources down at the bottom of the page...

other places you can go for info are of course your local library and online libraries' reference departments... both the library of congress and the british library have excellent, extremely helpful ones... and they're free!

another rich source of need-to-know stuff is people... if you're writing about a hospital, you can ask nurses and even orderlies what goes on there... same for crime-based writing and cops, as well as civilians who work in the public protection sphere... folks like this can be interviewed in person, or asked for input in the online forums you'll find devoted to all walks of life...

same goes for info on diseases, or anything else you can imagine... everything has a forum/website now... i doubt you can come up with any subject that doesn't...
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Re: Suggestions for research tools?

Postby stscam » Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:50 pm

If you know some basic things about your subject, newspaper and magazine archives are really good sources. Most states have free historical newspaper sites (this one is for California: And Cornell and the University of Michigan have coop sites titled "Making of America" that have a whole bunch of 19th century American magazines (Harper's, Atlantic, Scribner's, Century). Find Cornell here: and UM here: The Library of Congress has digitized a substantial collection of personal papers, historical photographs, and veterans' reminiscences. LOC also has a newspaper archive (that ties into the state sites). For tips on using these resources you might check out Finding Stuff at Many newspaper archives are fee-based (NY Times, London Times, Washington Post). Some let you buy one story at a time, others require a subscription. The same is true for some magazines. Google has a few periodicals - like Life - here: Good luck and have fun.

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Re: Suggestions for research tools?

Postby writertom » Tue Sep 03, 2013 5:37 am

Knowing the number of words in our writing is vital to save time. I often use this web tool ( to do so. Thanks for approving me to join this community for writers. :)

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Re: Suggestions for research tools?

Postby James A. Ritchie » Tue Sep 03, 2013 7:38 am

It depends on what I'm researching. I find there are almost too many research sources. It can be difficult to know which to trust. Britannica is the encyclopedia I use, and for most other things I go to the source. This tends to mean everything from science journals to experts in the field. You can't beat talking to experts in a given field.

For history, I also talk to experts, and read books and journals on the period, and I also read newspapers, letters, and journals from the period.

But whatever I do, I find going to the source is the best way to go abut it. If I can't get directly to a source, then I make sure I at least go to places I can trust.

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