Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.
- Napoleon

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Who's Doing Your Research?

So, who's doing your research? A multiple-degreed professional with 30 years experience, or a pimply faced teenager with too much time on his hands? If you're using the internet, you better make sure you're getting the former and not the latter. (Unless, your book is about pimply-faced teenagers, then go for it.)

First off, let me say research is a very important thing. I can't think of a single genre in fiction or non (okay, maybe fantasy) that can get away without doing at least a little research. Like many, you're relying on the wonderful tool - Google - or some other search engine to assist you. Without a very specific search, you'll get ten of thousands of hits.

I would guess the thinking is: The first few hits are the most reliable, right? Well... umm... Not necessarily. (In a quick Google just now on 'volcanic activity' the third highest link is Wikipedia.) This is the point when you need to take a careful look at who's doing your research. Anyone can put anything up on the net without having the slightest idea what they're talking about. There's no internet watchdogs to protect the uninformed against misinformation. (Not that there should be, but that's a discussion for another time.) We all need to watchdog for ourselves out here. And the best way to do that is to look for informed sources.

The way I handle this, is to focus on experts in the field. If I'm researching a scientific fact, I hit sites I assume would have a high degree of expertise in the field - university sites can be, private scientific endeavors are probably better, and sometimes even government sites can be okay. There are plenty of knowledgeable places on the web. (Wikipedia ain't one of 'em. Too many people adding whatever they feel is true, doesn't make for the most stable source, IMO.)

Another way to handle it, if you can't find an expert, or you're not sure even a supposed expert knows what he's talking about, is to use your common sense. Some of the supposed experts are walking around with their heads so far up their hineys, they haven't seen light in years.

Which brings back me around to my point. Just because it's slapped up on the net for all to see, doesn't make it correct. You're going to spend months writing your book. Don't skimp on the time it takes to make sure your facts are correct.

So... Who's doing your research for you?

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