There Is A Wealth Of Information On The Net
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Performing research on the World Wide Web is similar to using other more traditional means. If you are unsure of what you are looking for, then chances are you won't find it. But if you have a good idea of what you need and some idea of where to find it, then you can discover a wealth of information on the Web. In the hands of an experienced user, the Web can produce information more quickly and in more depth than any other means of research.

In this article I will list some of the resources available on the Web for writers and discuss how to use them effectively.

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Table #1: Link List Web Sites
TopicURL
Agentswww.writers.net/agents.html
Women Writerswe.got.net/docent/soquel/womwrt.htm
Children's Authorsfalcon.jmu.edu/~ramseyil/biochildhome.htm
Novelist's Research Linkswww.ninc.com/res.asp
Children's Writerswww.write4kids.com/links.html
Directory of News Sourcesnpc.press.org/newssources/index.cfm
Markets for SF, Fantasy, & Horrorwww.marketlist.com/
Science Fictionwww.sflovers.org/SFRG/
Christian Writingwww.billyates.com/cww/links.html
Screenwriters and Playwrightswww.writing-world.com/links/screen.shtml
List of Listsdir.yahoo.com/Arts/Humanities/Literature/
Writer's Tools & Resourceswww.diane.com/readers/tools.html
Science & Technologywww.sciam.com
Links for Poets and Writerswww.poewar.com/links/poetry.htm

There are three primary ways of using the Web for research: Search Engines, Link Listing Sites, and Topic-Specific Sites.

Search Engines

Search engines attempt to map the Web by indexing all the Web sites world-wide. Key words and phrases are gathered from these sites and put into a huge database (like a gigantic dictionary) along with the site's address.

The search engine I normally use is Google (www.google.com). It's fast and probably the most complete. To begin, simply type in your question or topic. For example, What is the weather in Manchester? will return a list of sites which provide this type of information. Google ranks the results by relevance, so if you do not find what you are looking for in the first 20 or so sites listed, try to enter more specific information.

SEARCH TIP: Use of capitals means case sensitivity. Only use capital letters when you want the matches to be exact in case. All lowercase letters are case insensitive.

Continuing the example, the weather in Manchester search will return weather information for both Manchester, NH and Manchester, UK. Google allows you to exclude references by using the minus sign (-) in front of a word or quoted phrase. A plus sign (+) requires that the word or phrase must be present. Entering "weather +Manchester -UK" (without the double quotes) will return sites which reference Manchester, do not reference the UK, and may or may not mention weather. Using the plus sign is a quick way to reduce the number of "hits" returned.

SEARCH TIP: To return an exact phrase such as "four score and seven years ago," use double quotes around the phrase.

Link Listings

Doing research by using search engines can be very time-consuming. Also, the majority of results are irrelevant. Fortunately there are some industrious individuals who most likely have already done most of the work for you! If the topic is of broad interest, then probably someone has compiled a list of Web sites that contain relevant information. These are commonly referred to as Link Lists. Table #1 lists a sampling of such sites that may be of interest to writers.

Topic-Specific Sites

Table #2 lists nine topic-specific sites. These are sites that are usually devoted to a single topic or a set of related topics. Another way to find topic-specific sites is to browse the www.yahoo.com site which organizes hundreds of thousands of sites world-wide by topic.

Table #2: Sample of Specific-Topic Sites
Writers' Conferences
www.writerswrite.com/conf.htm
As the name says...
Copyright
lcWeb.loc.gov/copyright/
Straight from the source at the Library of Congress
Grammar and Usage Guides
www.bartleby.com/141/Home/index.html
Strunk & White Elements of Style online

www.edufind.com/english/grammar/index.cfm
A useful overview of English grammar

Government Information
www.fedworld.gov/
If the government has it online, then you can find it here
Law
thomas.loc.gov/
Everything from current U.S. bills, the congressional record, to historical federal documents
Medicine and Health
www.ama-assn.org
"Online Health Information for Everyone"
Reviews
www.yahoo.com/Arts/Humanities/Literature
/Reviews/Recommendations/

List of book review sites
Promotion and Marketing
www.booksatoz.com/
Large site with tons of useful information
Employment for Writers
www.freelanceworkexchange.com
If you freelance, you need to visit this site

Next time I will talk about places on the Web to find information on specific genres, such as young adult and children's writing, Christian writing, drama and playwriting, mystery, poetry, romance, history, and science fiction. In the final article I'll wrap things up with topics such as publishing online and creating your own Web site, and will give a "must see" list of sites for any writer.

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