1. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    How do you do research?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Gallowglass, Jun 13, 2009.

    So, we've had a thread on how much you do, but how do you actually do it? And what for?
     
  2. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I typically do most of my research online. Sometimes I'll buy books, but I always check to see if I can get them from the library first. That's been enough to get me by so far. Sometimes I have to think somewhat out of the box to get the the right kind of info. For example, I'm writing from the perspective of an assassin atm, so I've been reading up on so-called 'suicide manuals'. Morbid, I know, but they provide exactly the kind of technical detail I need to write about my character realistically. They're basically just cause-of-death encyclopedias. Whatever gets the job done!
     
  3. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    To be honest, my story ideas often come out of my research.

    When I read/watch tv/end up getting lost on wikipedia, things often occur to me as good ideas for stories. I then read on a bit more, or think what else I'd need to know in order to write the story, then go and find it on the internet.
     
  4. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    I'm at a good location for talking to smart people, so I do a lot of research online, but I also talk to people and ask questions and borrow books from the nearby libraries. Sometimes I take notes, but mostly I just read and try to remember. It seems to have worked out thus far.
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...almost exclusively online, nowadays...

    ...for whatever i need to know about something i'm writing an essay on, or to get more detailed info than i have in my own 'hard-wired data bank'...
     
  6. love2listen
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    love2listen Member

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    I've heard of writers jobshadowing people, if their characters work in that field and they want to know more. same with filmmakers.

    if my character is say, a NASA specialist, I would google. a lot. a WHOLE lot
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I mostly use the Internet, but I also have a pretty decent home library, too.

    I haven't done so yet for my writing, but I have no problem with locating someone knowledgeable in a particular field and sitting down with them with questions - I've done it for coursework.
     
  8. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    My research depends on the nature of the subject. Obviously, the internet provides lots of information (sometimes of dubious reliability) but some things require first hand observation. Have you ever been on a nighttime "ride along" with a police officer? You experience things like; sights (gang members glaring at you with hatred in their eyes), sounds (gargling breath of someone in a wrecked car with blood filling their throat), smells (urine soaked combatant under arrest in the seat right behind you), boredom (hours of patrol when nothing happens), adrenaline surges (these are especially noticeable when they occur at the end of a long period of boredom) . . . some things are best experienced before you write about them.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Absolutely. The Internet tends to give facts and visuals, but the experience of being there is missing, particularly tastes, smells, and tactile sensations.
     
  10. jlauren
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    jlauren Senior Member

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    The last piece I wrote was about a pilot, so I posted some technical 'industry' questions on Yahoo Answers. Surprisingly, I had a lot of help, mostly from other pilots. I began chatting with 2 in particular, one who was a retired pilot and another who was a flight instructor. They were both really helpful and basically became my human text books! It was great not only for the info, but also as a window into the day-to-day life of a pilot. I was able to incorporate their fears, insecurities, frustrations and joys into my character. Plus I got to pick the brains of 2 great people! Awesome experience.
     
  11. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    At this point, most of what I need will be in my own collection of books as I tend to write on the subjects that interest me. If I don't have what I need, I have two main resources: First, the local library. Second, JSTOR. JSTOR if you have access to it is a tremendous source of articles and information. It made writing my University term papers very easy.
     
  12. Obezyanka
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    Obezyanka Member

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    I like to study and when I think I have hit some inspiration I look at books in the library and of course the interwebs.

    I was writing a fanfiction were the setting was in Liverpool UK. I searched for scenes etc through websites.

    My story Midnight Thoughts is based on studying the last Russian Imperial family and mainly the daughter Grand Duchess Olga. I am not sure if those were her last thoughts as she was getting shot but the scenes and items were what that Grand Duchess had experienced.

    When she got killed I read it was a different way instead of having two men hold her as she was shot in the back of the head. Another version was in the midst of the shoot everyone was pushing each other, Olga tripped over someone's shoes and a gun man shot her under her chin and the bullet exited the crown of her head.
     
  13. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    Internet. Books work too, but I prefer the internet.

    Interviewing people who work in a similar situation to your character is also a good idea if you live near someone you can ask.
     
  14. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Wikipedia is usually where I start, and the straightdope.com forum is a great place to go for obscure knowledge, but mostly I still use books for the info that I actually need to be accurate.
     
  15. Kirvee
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    Kirvee Contributing Member

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    Also, when using Wikipedia, be sure you take what you get from there with a grain of salt. It's a free-knowledge base that anyone and their mother can edit to say what they want. Always make sure you double-check something from Wikipedia if you doubt its validity.
     
  16. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well yeah, that's a given, but as long as you stay away from the controversial subjects you're usually fine. The problem I run into more often is that the articles on scientific, engineering, mathematical, or philosophical subjects are written for people who are already experts in the field.
     
  17. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Not necessarily.

    That's why wikipedia is never allowed as an academic reference. As my Contract lecturer said, it's use in an academic piece has the weight of referencing a proposition to "my friend down the pub".

    It's good for getting a basic understanding of a subject, yes, but it should always be treated with extreme caution. There are a lot of people who go around it committing small acts of vandalism which completely change the meanings.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    listen to banzai!... it's the sad truth, kids...
     
  19. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why do I suddenly feel like I'm a person who admitted he watches anime and finds himself being called a pedophile?
     
  20. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Easy, I was just expressing a different opinion.
     
  21. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Except that the opinion I expressed is that wikipedia is a good place to start research, and good enough for everyday understanding, but that if accuracy is important you need to go to another resource, usually books. I would never dream of doing anything like citing it in a paper.
     
  22. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    JSTOR. If you can access it, use it. Its the greatest database of journals, magazines and other publications everrrrrrrrrr.

    Seriously, I can't imagine doing any serious academic study without it. Must've been hard before the internet, huh....
     
  23. Agreen
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    Agreen Faceless Man Contributor

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    You'd better have liked microfilm...
     
  24. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Microfiche viewers, afternoons and evenings going through 50 pounds of books at a time (many of them were in German, because I was researching chemistry most often), printing out stacks of photrocopies for further study, hours goind through the card catalogs, ...

    You can call them the good old days if you wish.
     
  25. samessex
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    samessex Member

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    i think its good to actually go to locations you have in mind, if possible of course!! For example, the story im creating ideas for at the moment, is going to set in east end london. So soon ill probably taking a few trips down then, with camera, pen and paper, and jotting and snapping some ideas and descriptions etc.
     

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