The internet is a wonderful place for writers. All the inspiration and information you could possibly need is only a click away, whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction. Keeping focused and on track is important, and by knowing what you’re looking for and where to find it can save you hours of internet travel.
Credible sources are important to your work. For non-fiction articles, it is standard procedure to have two creditable sources, and it’s imperative to document these sources. When I’m working on an article, I often have two documents open. One for the article, and one for snippets, ideas and the websites from which I referenced the information. This way, whether the client for whom I’m working requires it or not, I have this documentation in case I need it.
The following websites (in no particular order) have been very useful for me in research, inspiration, tools, and work protection, and I hope they are valuable to you, as well.
Wikipedia: There is a lot of controversy over the accuracy of Wikipedia. My experiences with it bear this out. That being said, it is a huge database with tons of information. If you use Wikipedia, use it as a jumping off point. Check the links within the entries, the footnotes, the references. The links will often lead you to more valuable resources.
PDFonline: A free, web-based (meaning there’s nothing to download or install on your own machine) utility that converts documents to a PDF format. You can also convert a PDF file to a word document, as well as add a converter to a website. Easy to use, you just upload a file and go.
Creative Commons License: Protecting your work is important, and this website is a way to decide what rights are allowed for others to use. You keep your copyright, but allow people to distribute and copy your work as long as proper credit is given. Make sure to thoroughly read the licenses available and choose the one that best represents your intent.
Political Addictionary: Making up words is a fun and addicting pastime. Sure to tickle your political funnybone, you can add your own creations or just spend a couple of hours snickering hysterically at other’s viewpoints and descriptions of the political animal. Doubletongued is for current jargon and slang – also a hoot to read, but containing good information, as well.
Did You Know: Need inspiration or information about a fascinating fact? Here are literally hundreds of posted facts about everything from animals to videos, and is a great jumping off point for anything you can think of to write about.
The History Channel: The History Channel is chock full of information. Start here and find knowledge on ancient civilizations, holidays, and this day in history. Great for generalized research.
Assuming you either have, or at some point will have, a blog or website, registering your digital creation with My Free Copyright is an excellent idea. Best of all, it’s a free service and can take away some of the concern of getting ripped off. Not only do they send you your own digital “fingerprint”, they keep a copy also, in case your or someone else needs to reference the rights attributed to your work online.
These are the most general sites I visit; a lot depends on the subject I’m researching and what I’m looking for. I don’t believe everything I read, and I’ll make sure my sources are legitimate. Never copy information – this is plagiarism and the quickest way I know to kill a writing career. Read the material, consulting as many credible sources as you can, drawing your own conclusions and using your own words. Protect your work, reference everything. In other words, cover thy ass because no one else will do it for you.
As convenient as internet researching is, don’t forget your local library. Not only is it good to get out of the house (and we introverted writers have an occasional problem with that) but there’s information there you can’t access anywhere else. Librarians are trained to be helpful, and I haven’t ever been bitten by one. Sometimes just being in a “hall of learning” can be inspirational. Pick up a book or magazine you’ve never read before, ask the librarian for his/her recommendation, pay attention to what other browsers are reading. Make notes in the notebook you always carry. (You are carrying one, aren’t you?)
Do you have any favorite sites for information? Feel free to share the ones that have been most valuable to you in the comments.