If I had a job doing nothing but research, I’d be happy. Seriously, I love it that much. And so, over the years, I’ve found some really cool stuff, and a lot of it is primary source documentation. That means diaries, legal papers, letters, etc. And I didn’t have to go to a library to do it!
Not only that, but my research has involved foreign countries, and I had to dig up stuff for their history. It was amazing to see what I could find from China and India. But what we Americans provide is downright cool, too. I love the Internet and I’d love to share some of my great research sites with you now.
Here are a few places I’ve found helpful over the years:
University of Michigan Digital Collections (great for primary sources)
That’s only a smidgen of what I have in my HUGE bookmark files, but I’ve used all of them in writing.
Also be sure to check out your local library’s Internet access. You can usually get to that from home, using your library card number, and you’ll get some very powerful resources there — stuff you just can’t find on the Web for free. For example, you can get magazine articles from the past in full text or newspaper articles. It’s pretty amazing when you try.
And it’s EXTREMELY important that your details are concrete. As I mentioned, even when writing fiction, you don’t want to include information that’s false. People spot it, and it won’t do your credibility any good.
But especially when writing nonfiction — make sure your research is solid. I print out every detail that I find and have huge binders of Internet information I gleaned and still keep it for all of the books I’ve written. No telling when you might get called on a detail and will need to provide proof.
Printing stuff out from the Internet is very important… sites move. When I was putting this list together, I was saddened to learn that many of the sites I used in the past had vanished. But my facts are still straight.
Next time, let’s talk about what sites you can and cannot use for research. They’re not all created equal.