1. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    How useful are internet forums for conducting research?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by ScottM84, May 13, 2014.

    I have another newbie question. How useful do internet forums tend to be for research? For example, one of the main characters in the story idea I'm currently working on is going to be a figure skater. There's not going to be play-by-play of competitions in the book, but to add to the realism, I'd like to be able to include a bit about it in some of her conversations, and I'd obviously like for it to be accurate. My current knowledge of the subject is limited to just knowing the names of some of the jumps from seeing Olympic competitions. When researching a topic like that have any of you ever used a forum dedicated to the subject, and if so, how successful were you?
     
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  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum. Forums are useful for limited kinds of research, while many topics are best researched with a search engine.

    For specifics about ice skating, I'd suggest a search engine would get you more information. If any of our members are skaters they might be a good resource.

    When it comes to how to write the dialogue, this forum is a good source.
     
  3. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with @GingerCoffee . The forum can be helpful—but your best bet is always to do your own research. Especially if it's for something contemporary, like figure skating competitions. Make sure your online sources are reputable and official, and not just some blogger somewhere giving an opinion.

    Once you get going, if you come up against a specific problem or question, by all means throw it out to the forum. A member might be an expert on exactly what you need, and may be able to offer first-hand experience as well as answer questions.

    I know we've got a few martial arts and combat experts here. We've got several people who know LOTS about food and cooking. IT experts. Guitarists. People who have medical experience. Tattoo artists. At least one (and maybe more) who know lots about horses and their care. Etc. You never know who might pop up. But don't rely on the forum to do your research for you. You do need to ferret out most of your information yourself.
     
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  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Forums can be a very good place to get advice. There are forums out there for pretty much anything you can think of. I've browsed through physics and technology forums before and have gotten a lot of useful info.
     
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  5. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This is a good point. I know a couple forums where scientific topics are expertly discussed and I know I can go there to ask certain questions, just like I can ask questions about writing and grammar here and get good answers,
     
  6. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    Thanks for the feedback! Have any of you ever asked for input about a specific place you were personally unfamiliar with? I'm currently researching the location the story will be set in through search engine results, as I've never been there and a visit is out of the question at this time.
     
  7. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Google Earth or even just Google Maps satellite view will get you the physical layout and appearance. You'll need more if you need culture.

    My question is, why write about a place you are so unfamiliar with? Why not make a place up?
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Getting non-writing research done on writing forums is a bit iffy - there may be people who know about the subject; there may be people who only think they do. I've searched out numerous specialty forums and sites on the 'net to ask questions, and have gotten some great information (and contacts) through them.
     
  9. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    Maybe I'll change as I'm going through the process, but I like the idea of having the added realism of having a real-life location. I also like the idea of learning about a new place. We'll see what happens, though. Maybe it's all part of the learning process for me.
     
  10. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    For figure skating, find someone who figure skates (here on the forums or in real life). Talk to them about terms, techniques, etc. Go on youtube with a list of terms and watch them. Watch a few competitions.

    For just normal research, just don't ask an English major to recite the Quadratic Formula off the top of their head. Find someone who knows what they're talking about in a given subject.
     
  11. T.Trian
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    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Forums are just another tool among other reasearch options. I've gotten plenty of great info from a lot of people here via both PMs and threads. Usually it does require that there are people on the forum who are well versed in whatever you are researching, preferably professionals or professional level amateurs.

    Even then it's a good idea to use forum research to supplement your own google-fu. If you don't know much about the subject you're researching, google the heck out of it first, then when you understand the subject's "language," i.e. the terminology etc, you can start a thread with more accurate questions and derive more use out of the answers from those who possess the necessary knowhow.

    I also use specialized forums, especially if I feel I need second opinions, although it's better to favor those you know to be good since not nearly all forums are created equal. For instance, there are so many crappy martial arts forums out there it's not even funny, especially regarding self-defense.
    Sometimes the best forums are a tad "underground" and quite often they're even relatively small or inactive, so the size and amount of traffic isn't always a sign of the forum's quality, but seek and ye shall find and all that.
     
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  12. ScottM84
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    ScottM84 Member

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    I certainly have a long way to go to learn what I need to about figure skating for the context of my story, but I did a bit of research on my own through Google to get an idea of when a child might begin skating lessons, and found a bit of information about the difficulty and scoring of various jumps. I joined a figure skating discussion forum a few minutes ago (I never would have thought I'd ever say that), told them what I was doing, and asked if they minded if I asked them some questions. If they agree, I'll tell them what I've found and ask them if that's accurate, and then try to determine the level of skill my character might have and find out what terminology I might need to know. Here's hoping for some good results!
     
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  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that!

    but always keep in mind that anyone can claim to be anything, online... and plenty of folks get their kicks pretending to be what they're not...
     
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  14. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I found some very helpful answers on a police forum, opinions of officers on questions I had, specific to my work. Research is very important but interviewing a human is sometimes the only thing that does the trick.
     
  15. desert rat
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    desert rat Member

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    Or, to be the Luddite, go to the library :) Lots of comments here about being wary of quality of information on the web and forums (which I concur with) and that is the beauty of the old fashioned published book. It doesn't guarantee the author knows what he is talking about, but publishing by major publishers generally requires some evidence of expertise or credibility in the subject. The publisher forms a level of quality control allowing you to have greater faith in the material you read. Of course, some crappy stuff does slip through, but if you are looking for reliable information, I would suggest your local library as a first stop.

    Some days, when I have nothing else to do, I worry about our society's research ability and embracing technology. I suspect (though don't know as I haven't researched it :)) that there is an inverse correlation between quality of information and ease of publishing. The internet has flattened the world by providing information to all, but the bargain for that is the treasure is buried deeper than ever before in a wasteland of misinformation. I think that is why I still believe that published books have great value in research. Islands of useful information in a blasted landscape of poor information.... (If nothing else, I kinda like the imagery :))
     

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