The Internet makes it easier than ever for the writer to research a subject. Back in the day, we had to get good with the phone, or write letters, to learn about a subject. I used to keep very wooly magazine files, or trod down to the library to learn about subjects like genetics, viruses and AIDS (all part of my Viral Times novel project.)
Now your instinct would be to tap a series of keywords into the Google search box. Google’s great, but not perfect. If it frustrates you after a few minutes, let me pass along a few other research start points, courtesy of the Poynter.org journalism Web site.
At Poynter, cyberjournalist.net publisher Jonathan Dube recommends Accoona.com (the name comes from “Hakuna Matata,” which means “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in Swahili).
The site’s news and business search engines are built on artificial intelligence algorithms, which enable the search engine to return not just results containing your search term, but also any stories the artificial intelligence thinks are associated with the search term.
Dube’s column also points out Huckabuck.com, a site that
searches Google, Yahoo!, and MSN simultaneously and delivers results from all three. A neat feature that differentiates this from other metasearch sites is that you can weight search engine results using the “Search Tuner button” so that, for example, Google’s results are given more weight than MSN’s (but MSN’s are still included).
You can get lost in research, and forget about writing your dreamstorms and drafts. But a story also needs accurate details. Having several search tools is better than just the obvious one.