Research – if in doubt what do you do?

If you want to find out about something you know nothing or little about, what do you do?

There’s an obvious modern day answer – you Google it.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of quite obscure research recently for Book Baby 3 and it struck me earlier – how did writers research such things pre-Google?

The world’s knowledge is quite literally at your fingertips. You don’t even need a computer- any smartphone will do. It does make us all quite lazy though.

Pre-Google ad Wiki if you wanted to research a topic, you packed up your notebook and pens and took yourself off to the local library.

Or, if you were lucky enough, maybe you knew someone with a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica. I’ve always wanted a copy of it!

Regardless of the research topic, the answer back then was always found in a book of some sort.

I remember as a child helping a friend to research the history of her house. We are going back over thirty-five years here but I seem to recall the house had been part of an old school at one point in its past. Armed with our notebooks, we took ourselves off into town to the main library in search of some local reference books. Being children, we were dismissed by the librarian in the “adult” library and sent upstairs to the children’s section. Like we were going to find much in the way of local history there! Fortunately, the children’s reference section was right next to the adult reference section and we did manage to find a couple of local history books but not much.

Someone’s mum suggested that we try the other library in town, the reference library next door to the local museum. Now that one had a  scary librarian! However, she realised that we were serious about our research topic and helped us to navigate our way through the catalogue system and pointed us in the direction of some useful old local histories. She even brought out some newspaper archives for us to read through.

I can’t remember now what we found out about the house (sorry) but it was my first introduction to “real” research.

In my final year in high school, I had to undertake some historical research in support of my Latin dissertation on the Roman Emperor Caligula. I was trying to argue that he wasn’t completely insane. Again, finding information proved to be a challenge. The “standard” Roman research book of choice proved to be of little use – The Annals by Tacitus – as some of them are missing. Yes, those that surrounded the time period I needed to research. Typical! My class teacher assisted where he could by bringing me his own personal copies of some Roman histories and also by borrowing a book from The British Library (I think) for me to use for a short period of time. I loved researching and writing up that dissertation! The topic did and still does fascinate me.

Now all these years down the line research is still fun but SO much easier!

Be honest, when did you last even open a book to look something up?

It’s a bit of a standing joke in this house if, over dinner, we are discussing a topic that requires some validation or more detail, I’ll reach for the dictionary as my first port of call. A good dictionary is worth its weight in gold. There’s an incredible amount of information in a decent dictionary.

So what’s your favourite research tool these days?

For both book babies, Google streetview have proved to be a Godsend. And who can live without Google maps?

Even when it came to searching for a cover image for Book Baby 2, Google was the first place I looked. (I had looked round the men in my life and decided that none of them quite lived up to my expectations of Jake Power – sorry, guys) It did mean I perused more images of half-naked hot men, and some not so hot men, than was perhaps healthy for me. Tee Hee…..

This week’s topic has been of a darker nature (No, I’m not giving any Book Baby 3 plot clues away) and it has left me pondering a few bizarre points.

Well, I’ve procrastinated on the research front long enough for one day. Time to delve back into Google….or maybe I’ll read the dictionary instead.


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