The Modern Writer: Research

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m writing a series of posts highlighting different aspects of the modern writer. Today, I’m going to talk about research and how it has evolved in the internet era.

For me, in my recent endeavors, it’s become important to research how flintlock and percussion cap firearms work, how far an army could march in a day, or how much food would be needed for an extended campaign. Each writer is going to research something different, dependent on the needs of their story and the world in which it lives.

When I started writing I didn’t really do much of any research. All of my works were either highly derivative, or created completely without basis or factual evidence.

As I’ve developed as a writer, however, it’s become more and more obvious to me that in order to write a solid story, some level of research is essential.

“Back in the day” research involved reading other books in the genre of your choosing, or going to the library and finding source material on the subject you wished to research.

Taking classes on a subject at a local college might be one way to study a particular field, including the copious amount of notes that would go along with that.

But those things took time and money. And for some situations, you might not even have a chance to read extensively on your

The Internet has changed the way that writers study. A quick scan of the Amazon categories, a Wikipedia article, or even just a quick Google search will typically render enough reading material to fulfill most research needs. topic. Gunpowder Fantasy wasn’t even a thing when I started reading. If I had tried to read other books in the genre, I would have been out of luck.

Not only does this allow a writer a much wider variety of content to peruse and research (some of my reading for Gunpowder Fantasy comes from authors in the UK and Australia) but it saves tons of times. No longer does a writer need to take a chunk out of their day to drive to the library to look up books and read through them.

library

There is, as always, a downside to using the internet as a research tool: the random dredges of society and the sometimes scattershot

approach that Google takes when combing through its massive databases for information.

n-helpful or downright harmful to the honest study of a topic. And if you search for two words, any website with those words anywhere near each other will come back on the results, sometimes creating false positives.Because anyone can have a blog, the search engines will often come up with results from people who are either less-tha

How has the internet changed how you research your work? How has it changed how you find new things to read
?

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3 comments on “The Modern Writer: Research

  1. I use wikipedia as a starting point. I don’t rely on it as sole source of information. For my writing, I use it sort of the same way. My work usually resides more on the fantasy side. So I look for sites that fall in line with the information I already know. Then if I find some new information or an intriguing fact I may Google it to check it out.

  2. It really depends on what I’m writing and when I’m researching. If I’m doing the pre-planning, I’ll go to the library and take out related books, believe it or not, but if I’m actually in the writing process an need to find something out, it’s right to Google and do a search. If I find a site that has a lot of good information, I’ll bookmark it for later, too.

  3. The Internet has changed my research methods drastically. In seconds I can have the answer to my question and continue writing. I tend to find websites (not blogs) concerning the topic because I’ve found them more reliable, but some blogs are wonderful and packed with facts. I still borrow books from the library, depending on what I’m researching. And I visit local historical places to get a real feel for how it might be like to live there. That could be Sherbrooke Village or Fort Anne or one of the other wonderful locations in Atlantic Canada.

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