Friday, October 1, 2010

Research in the Internet Age





This week I came to appreciate just how lucky I am to be writing during the Internet age. I recently started the research and plotting phase of my latest work-in-progress, and for the first time, the story I’m working on is set in a location I’ve never visited: Hawaii.

I’d love to hop on a plane and fly to Hawaii to conduct research, but let’s be honest, I can hardly afford to drive to the next town, let alone make it to Hawaii. I’ve reluctantly accepted that I will have to conduct all of my research online. How depressing!

But wait? What would I do if I didn’t have the Internet? *cue blood-curdling scream*

It is hard to imagine how tough it would be to write this book without the convenience of having tons of information at my fingertips. What would my options be? Going to the library and pulling a dusty Encyclopedia Britannica from the shelf? Spending a small fortune on travel guides at the bookstore? Visiting travel agencies for brochures? Calling the Hawaiian Visitor’s Bureau and waiting weeks for a 50-page booklet that gives just the barest overview of the entire state?

Through websites such as TripAdvisor, I’ve found hundreds of pictures of the resort where my characters will be staying, along with firsthand descriptions from vacationers. Being such a popular destination, there are literally thousands of websites with endless lists of things to do on the beautiful islands of Hawaii.

So, while I would love to be lounging on white sand with a fruity alcoholic beverage in hand (and my trusty netbook for taking notes, of course), I am ever so grateful for this amazing tool that brings Hawaii into my small office in Austin.

What are some of the best research tools who’ve found when researching a setting that you can’t visit personally?

7 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I use the net for all kinds of research these days, although I still have a pretty good research library for esotoeric matters like psychology.

Captain Black said...

You could always watch a season of Hawaii Five-O ;o)

G said...

It's funny, but now I use Wikipedia either to help me narrow down what to look for at my public library, or to help me confirm something that I found at home or have a rudimentary knowledge.

But the library is still my #1 choice to use as research.

Shauna Roberts said...

You cannot imagine how difficult it was to research an article before the Internet. (I can barely believe I did it.) I used to spend hours and hours in Tulane's medical library just trying to come up with topic ideas.

It's a good thing the Internet came along because standard freelance rates have barely budged since I started as a freelance writer more than 20 years ago. The Internet allowed freelance writers to produce articles in a much shorter time, allowing incomes to keep up with inflation.

Jewel Amethyst said...

I don't even remember what it was like before the internet, other than that in my high school years I lived in the library. Right now When I write, be it a scientific article or my WIP, I have a window with the browser open. It's hard to imagine a world without Pubmed, Google and Wikipedia. And I don't know the last day I looked in a dictionary. I just click on Dictionary.com.

So despite all its distraction, the internet is a the premier resource for us writers. I love it.

Phyllis Bourne said...

Pre-internet, I lived in the library. So I really appreciate having the world at my fingertips.

No matter where we go, I always want McDonalds. In Hawaii you can get a side order of pineapple instead of fries!

Liane Spicer said...

Farrah, every other day or so I want to drop to my knees and thank the Great Cyber Gods for the Internet.

TripAdvisor is good. Google is my best friend. Google Maps satellite views are so fabulous it's creepy, especially the 360 degree street level views. They put you right there - no airline tickets required! Municipal websites are also helpful - as are online friends who actually live in the places I'd never get to and who are happy to point me in the direction of helpful sites.