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Books or the Internet?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Dreamer, Sep 25, 2011.

  1. Dreamer

    Dreamer Dreamer

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    I have found when I am researching ideas for a particular story I tend to gather my information by searching on
    either Yahoo or Google. After getting my results I go through and try to find sites that would best cover what I
    need to know. It seems that I do not really find myself going to the library and searching through actual books for my resources. Has the internet spoiled everyone else the way it has me? I was just curious if anybody actually goes to the library to research anymore.
     
  2. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    As long as you get the information you need, then it doesn't matter. The internet is more efficient, even at presenting information from printed texts, so I think it'd be hard to find people who rely on books for most of their research. The internet also lets you jump from topic to topic easily too.

    I use the internet for most of my research, unless it's for education where you have to read academic texts. But even then, you can find a lot of the information from those academic texts on the internet.
     
  3. mythique890

    mythique890 Sage

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    I've used Google for all the research I've done up to now, but I think the internet can only take you so far. If I needed to do really intense research, I'd head to the library or try to get in contact with an expert (I'm thinking of emailing a local professor for something I need, but the idea makes me nervous).
     
  4. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

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    The internet is, nine times out of ten, enough for the research I need to do. If I need to read a specific material, such as a specific essay, then I will find it however I can find it (but let's be honest, it's probably easier to find online via Gutenberg, Google Books, etc.). If there is a very specific topic I want to research, particularly if it is an obscure, I may buy a book on the topic - and I do say 'buy', because most of the topics that are too specific to find thorough, reliable resources for online are also too obscure for the average public library. My old university's library probably would have it, but they wouldn't let you take it out. Lots of libraries are bad about lending out reference materials. So... it'd have to be an obscure enough topic, an interesting enough topic, and one important enough to the story I want to tell that I'm willing to spend money on it before I look in a book for something.

    Unless I happen to already own a book on something, in which case, why not use it? But, yeah, most of the research I need to do is fulfilled by a Wikipedia page most of the time, and about a minute of Googling if I need something more. Particularly for your standard fantasy topics. There are hundreds of books on mythical creatures, but hundreds more websites on them. And wikipedia's article on werewolves is longer than their articles for some third world countries.
     
  5. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    The library is not efficient and usually is hit or miss.

    The internet, I can get 15-20 good hits per search, it takes mere seconds and I am done long before I could even find one book on the subject in the library.

    I would have loved the internet when I was in school. Find information in seconds, and be done with homework even quicker.

    If you find a research book, you have to look in the index for the specific information then flip back to it, and see if it helps. Search engines do all this and you merely skim the article to find the needed information or flip to a new sight.

    Sorry to point it out, people writing these books tend to add fluff, when students want the meat. The internet skims off the prime beef leaving the fluff and fat untouched.
     
  6. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    Oh yeah, it also depends on whether you have a good library or not. I'm alright I guess, since I have two university libraries and the city library within walking distance of my house. Otherwise, as SevinR says, it's hit or miss. It's annoying to go into the library and not find anything worth borrowing.
     
  7. Ravana

    Ravana Istar

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    Books, whenever possible. The problem with the internet is getting "good" hits… and, very often, having to dig through all the other hits to find the "good" ones. Remember that anything on the internet can be changed at any moment (by someone authorized to do so… or by someone who isn't), and that you can never be completely sure that what you're getting is reliable data. Remember, too, that much of what's on the internet isn't "reliable" in the first place: how do you know that the page you're looking at was created by someone who actually knows what he's talking about? There are ways to sort the good from the dubious–for starters, make sure whatever you're looking at is sourced; then check the sources, to make sure that they actually say whatever the author claims they say, that the sources themselves are reliable, etc.

    Books, on the other hand–and even more importantly, publications such as academic journals–have at least the virtue of having gone through an editor somewhere, probably a peer review process (assuming they're recent enough), and above all can't be arbitrarily altered at any given moment. All the above cautions still apply: you want to try to determine whether or not the print publication is itself reliable, well sourced, represents contemporary research rather than outdated and discredited opinion, whether or not the author is considered knowledgeable in the field or is some hack who convinced a publisher his text would sell, and so on.

    The best use of the internet is to find the books, journals, etc.: look at a couple of the better-looking hits, then check their sources, see which are available directly online (and hope that no one has hacked the page recently: if the page belongs to a professional publication, odds are it polices itself well enough that whatever's there is reliable), and see which if any are available at your library–most library catalogs are available online at this point… then go to the library. Yes, it's far easier to do this if you live in a city with a major research university: your local public library isn't going to be shelving academic journals; no, you don't need borrowing privileges, as long as you're willing to either sit there and read for a few hours, taking notes as appropriate, or are willing to pump some dimes into their photocopiers. (Ignore the copyright warnings posted above every such copier: they're required to say that. No one's going to come by and stop you from photocopying entire books, if you want to. I know. From experience. Though usually your needs will be limited to a few pages you'd rather take home with you than try to summarize in your notebook.)

    Just how unreliable is the internet considered, when it comes to academic research? Consider the MLA citation style requirements. For a book, you need author, title, publisher (including city: many publishers have multiple presses) and copyright date. Dirt simple. For an internet source, you are required to provide as much as is available of ten different categories… and #9 is the date you accessed the source. Why? Because it might have said something else the previous day… or might say something else when someone checking your references looks at it.

    For most purposes of most people here, worrying about such things is overkill: we're writing fantasy, not dissertations. But if your concern is to be accurate (as opposed to just wanting a brief overview to fuel plausibility), it's worth keeping in mind.

    P.S. One very good way to locate books, I've discovered, is to go to Amazon and search on your topic. You can see what's available, get summaries and often reader reviews. Then see if your library has it. Or, for that matter, your local bookstore, if it's a current publication: pick it up, skim through it, take notes, put it back on the shelf if you don't want to spring for it. Works great. ;)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  8. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    @Ravana: I think a lot of people are quick to discredit internet research. It's not guaranteed to be reliable, but with a little common sense and a only little more digging, you can usually find the consensus on most questions. Also, no matter how much digging you have to do for those good sources, it's still going to be more efficient than travelling to the library, perusing the shelves, picking out a decent book, and copying the information (if you even find the right book).

    I research using the internet a lot, and I'm fairly certain that I can tell the good information from the bad. Mostly because I'm not prone to opening a website and believing everything I read. As long as you know that it's possible you're reading bad information, I think you're capable of researching online effectively.

    Don't get me wrong, books are great, but I think your point about worrying too much is spot on. If you're going to try and research the finest details in only the most trusted academic sources... well, when do you plan to fit in writing that fantasy novel?
     
  9. Leuco

    Leuco Troubadour

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    I agree. Only a good library is worth the visit.

    When I started writing, I would spend a lot of time at the local library looking for new books. I would get a lot of those big hardcover books with pictures of castles or weapons or stories of famous battles. I'd get books about horses, landscapes. I'd even check out books about the craft of writing and art books on painting, just to help with my covers. I used these resources to improve my language or to use them as a reference for descriptions. Some of them were mostly just for inspiration.

    The internet, however, has been immensely helpful with my writing. If I needed a certain word, or a quick image for reference, I would just go straight to google. If I was unsure of something, I'd quickly look it up and then go back to writing. However, for in depth stuff, I'd make the trip to the library. I find it more comforting to read from a single, credible source rather than spend time browsing for more than a paragraph of information on wikipedia.
     
  10. Ophiucha

    Ophiucha Auror

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    Not to mention, it's much, much, much easier to cross-reference a fact on the internet than it is in a book. If you read something in a book that says "dogs can only see in black and white", you'd have to hunt down another book on dog anatomy to see if the facts correlate. With the internet, you can pull up nine or ten sources in mere seconds and get a consensus on the idea. And they've done studies that show that Wikipedia is often more accurate than Encyclopaedia Britannica, though there are more spelling errors.
     
  11. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    This is exactly what I mean when I say that you can find a consensus very efficiently. Not only that, but the internet allows you to travel down unexpected paths, following links and references in a flash. Perhaps that can be distracting, but the potential for consuming new information is massive.
     
  12. Gryffin

    Gryffin Scribe

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    I try to use both but I'm more a fan of using the internet. I find a lot of useful books at the thrift store instead of the library. It's cheap and I can keep the books as a reference. I just got The Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500 - 1800 but I'm definitely going to supplement it with internet research.
     
  13. RedRidingHood

    RedRidingHood Dreamer

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    When I do research, I always try to get a range of internet and book sources. After awhile, the internet searches all start to sound the same to me. Books, on the other hand, go back hundreds of years and often provide new insights. Let's say you are researching mythology, a good book to have on hand is Ovid's Metamorphoses. It provides the simple, basic myth. Nothing has sullied it yet. When you are stuck, it can be good to just go back to the basics. And when you are writing a ton, it's good to know you understand the basic story of the myth you are using.
     
  14. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

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    I did my first in library research last night, while waiting for a speaker on publishing to start.
    I like the internet better.
     
  15. rayne

    rayne Dreamer

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    I have just come from the library because I could not find what I wanted online. Although the internet is more efficient, sometimes just to do the basic book research relaxes me and helps my mind flow on to other ideas. Time, of course, is a factor here. For the quick answer, the internet is the best. For the long, lazy, rainy afternoon answer, go to the library.
     
  16. Thursday

    Thursday Scribe

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    Definitely the library. You can trust your source better and it's easier to quote and reference. Also reading something gives you more additional information-some you might not have picked up with a narrow search.
     
  17. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Saying the books are always better sources is narrow thinking in my mind, but university taught me to shun anything "non-academic" in favour of "peer-reviewed" stuff. I have no idea what either of those really mean, but it doesn't matter. A book is equally as likely to get it wrong as the same subject on a website is. For example, once getting to college level, secondary level text books on many subjects, but mostly physics in my experience, become flat out WRONG. And yet they get published and taught widely, until the next year/term/semester when the tutor says, "I forgot to mention but all that was some elaborate metaphor, what really happens it ...."

    The trick to getting a good source is not shunning either method [Hell, you can get academic and industry journals on the internet with the right subscription] its, as some one else in this thread said, checking your information. Not many academics can wholely agree with one another on a topic, so discrepancies will arise [even in stuff that should probably be "cold, hard, measureable fact". Trust me, after completely a three year course at university doing a degree which include a shit ton of research I've been through all this.]

    The thing that turns be against Libraries is that any one can check a book out, it's like how you're hardly ever guaranteed to get a book you want in a university library because chances are fifty other people are trying to get the very same copy as you. Sure you can put your name on a list, or reserve it, but by then the deadline has passed. The easiest thing to do in these cases [or if you just need quick information] is use an academic database. Quick and simple.

    Now the thing that turns me against the internet for research is very much narrower... open source websites intended for research of general information [you know the one I'm talking about]. Of course you can get even this passed some one marking an essay if you ignore wikipedia and use the handy referances in this article list it provides at the bottom of most things.

    The trick with research is check check check your information against EVERYone elses, or near enough. Frankly it shouldn't matter what kind of sources you use, as long as you can back them up with a contrary point from another source and draw YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS from there.

    Both are useful, Both aren't useful.

    Its all a matter of how long one has been around compared to the other and distrust in "fancy, newfangled things"
     
  18. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

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    Definitely internet. I always hate it when teachers force students to use mostly print sources. The internet is so much more convenient and efficient. And for those of you complaining about the accuracy of internet sources, have you ever tried to edit wikipedia? You throw up anything that is inaccurate and they have it down within the minute. It's pretty fun, but I got my school's IP address banned from editing the site :eek: Oh well.
     
  19. Johnny Cosmo

    Johnny Cosmo Inkling

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    I have to disagree. A single book has far less scope for exploration than the internet, and a library of books is far less efficient. As for trusting your sources... well, the information from trustworthy academic sources finds its way on to the internet, and with a little common sense it's easy to find.
     
  20. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

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    Johnny- Bon Iver fan? I like your style.

    And I completely agree with your point, there are plenty of good sources on the internet.
     
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