Turning to Google is not Research

There are so many writers on Twitter and WordPress and probably just about any social media site who talk about research for their writing. That no writer should cut corners during their research. That research is SO important. That readers will know if they read something that hasn’t been properly researched. And these same writers seem to think that a simple Google search is research. It isn’t.

My genre of choice is crime fiction. Think of all the things that can potentially happen in a crime novel. Physical confrontations. Gunfire. Policing. The list is endless. Let’s just say that just about anything can happen in a crime novel. And obviously one can’t possibly know all of these things off the top of their head. Which means it’s time to research.

Let’s say you want to know what it feels like to be tased. Are you going to find the Wikipedia page and see what it says or are you going to get yourself tased? Easy. Let’s say you want to know what it’s like to be pepper sprayed. Same thing, are you going to do a little Google search or are you going to get pepper sprayed? Another easy choice. But let’s say that you want to know what a particular bodily injury really feels like…maybe a broken arm. No one is going to break their own arm in the name of research, but one could speak with a doctor about the injury rather than read some article online that may or may not be accurate.

See, this can go on and on. You can either conduct actual research or you can play around on Google and label it as such. Just because you call it research doesn’t make it research. And quite frankly, I don’t care which you do. But I think it’s funny how so many writers seem to think they’ve become experts after Google searching something for their writing.

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52 thoughts on “Turning to Google is not Research

  1. I’ve researched with doctors and lawyers for my books, and in the process met some really cool people. It’s really worth it. People have no idea how open someone gets when they hear; “Hey, I’m a writer.” It’s pretty cool.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Exactly! I’ve talked to police officers and they just want to share everything they know. And tell me their stories. And I bet so many people would be exactly the same way if a writer just asked for a little info.

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  2. Google research gives you a small head start, but to get anywhere in your writing -or any kind of research, one must go deeper and expand. Plus Wikipedia is the worst place of getting your info. Anyone could play with the info, and many consider it the weakest spot for research.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so interesting and I agree wholeheartedly. Just this morning I was planning my term essay and I decided that this time I’m going to do proper research through books and journals.
    The same goes for writing. I feel like research really makes the writing experience way better and the stories get much more promising.
    As a student of Literature I often feel like technology has taken away a lot of the personality building elements (like research, thorough reading) from our education.

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    • YES! I don’t think writers even think of how they wrote essays in school when they’re writing their stories. Which they should.

      As for technology, I think it’s helped. I wrote all of my college papers (like 35-40) without ever having to go to the library. I just found journal articles through the databases. And I really liked writing those papers. I’d write them in one sitting, which probably wouldn’t have been possible if I had to go to the library all the time to research.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello! Right now I’m writing a fantasy series based on angels. It’s kind of difficult running into one of them but I have done research using the bible, koran and many other archaic books to find the information I need to make my story seem as believable and well researched as possible. I’ve also interviewed a couple of people who claim to have seen/communicated with angels. 😉 Yeah . . .

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  5. It all depends. Google/Wikipedia can be a good cross-referencing tool to get you started. But first hand experience is the best or knowing someone. I don’t think I’ll be going down the pepper spray route anytime soon … although you never know! There is a danger that the internet is making us lazy. I need to think more about this I suspect.
    All the best … Kris
    http://www.awritersden.wordpress.com

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    • The pepper spray was just one example. Writers write about practically everything, right? But we haven’t experienced it all. I have no issue with an initial Google search, but I don’t like that some people use Google for ALL of their “research.”

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  6. If you think almost anything can happen in crime fiction, try writing fantasy. Some things you just can’t describe because they’ve never happened to you, but it’s okay because they’ve never happened to anyone else, either. I find it’s best to start with a description from my own experience (as far as that will take me) and make up the rest. In more realistic fiction, you will have readers who have had a particular experience (being tased, for example), but I think the actual numbers will be so low that a good faith effort to describe it is enough for the vast majority of readers.

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  7. When I used google for my novels it is usually for specific images. When I started the novel that I am currently working on, the first thing I did was go to the library. I got books on everything that was related to my topic, and found academic articles that I knew would be helpful. Wiki and Google are good resources if you know how to use them though. Google does have academic articles…. I also got some of my information for documentaries on BBC and there is an old home where my grandparents live that I used to play in as a kid, which acts as a sort of historical site. I think we just get lazy when it comes to research sometimes…this is the first novel where I’ve felt that I needed to do a lot of research, and even still I’m researching. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • By the way, I’m also reblogging this 🙂 . Great post!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sounds like you really know how to get your research done. And I think sometimes it’s just being lazy and other times a writer night think they know “enough” to write the story. And that mindset in itself is also bad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yah. With my first novel I didn’t do any research…but I was 13 years old and didn’t realize I needed to look certain things up. When I started to edit that novel I began doing research for it and realized how many mistakes I was making, and started to question myself as to whether or not putting certain labels on things was a good idea. If you do the research while you’re planning out your novel or when you come to a point where you think that you know that you don’t have any clue as to what you’re talking about…then research. Maybe it’s a pride thing? I don’t know… but once you get past that “I know enough” thing, then you become a much better writer.

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      • I don’t think anyone writing a book that young is going to do their due diligence in regard to any topic. Cause you font know better. I personally think any writer should never think they know enough. Cause big time authors who have written and researched everything still have to research, no reason to think you’re different.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This is why I contacted an NHL team for the book I’m writing with pro hockey players in it. Go right to the source. Dr. Google and every variant of that should be used as a starting point.

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  9. I would always go to Google before inflicting physical injury on myself. Pepper spray can cause permanent damage to eyes, tasers can kill if used incorrectly. Google will probably find you an article by someone describing it and not land you in hospital.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. I see what you mean. If I was writing a story about something that was going to be a major part of the story or have great presence or significance, I would probably start with a Google search but ultimately I know I would have to seek information beyond the internet.

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  11. I totally agree. I’m a journalist and good research is so important to any kind of story. I often slip in questions I’m interested in for my fiction writing when I’m interviewing people for my work.

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  12. Hi again
    Years ago I asked my local police station if they could tell me what notes their 2-tone vehicle sirens made. Mind you … I’m talking about in the days before the internet.
    Just the local library , the landline telephone and real.live people. The station didn’t know so they asked the manufacturers who said … they didn’t know either. They found out that it varied but often B flat + a semitone. One guy then phoned me up and told me not to forget the Doppler effect. I was then a happy man.
    You may like to follow my writer’s routine site. Have a look and tell me what you think.
    http://www.awritersden.wordpress.com

    All the best
    Kris

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  13. Hallelujah!

    To be fair, some research isn’t easy, and my own efforts to talk to people about some things have been frequently stymied, but “I googled it” should just be a beginning.

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  14. I’m fond of pulling research from books, as most of my research is academic rather than hands-on. Fantasy writers need a good foundation of history, mythology, Joseph Campbell, linguistics, medieval weaponry, and other topics which experts have written many journal articles or books about. Wikipedia is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to such things.

    However, I know lots of fantasy writers who have taken martial arts classes, fencing, etc, in order to improve their fight scenes. Or one could consult with a local college professor about how to write myth, or how to design their own fantasy language. It really just depends on how much emphasis your story puts on certain things, and what resources are available to you. My best friend happens to be an anthropologist, so she was very helpful in letting me know how a real human skeleton would react if it underwent some of the attacks my characters received.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Someone commented that it’s harder to research when writing fantasy because of what happens in those stories, bit you’ve just proven that there is so much to be learned. Even for that genre.

      Like

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