Sunday, January 07, 2007

As far back as elementary school, I’ve always had at least one teacher whose standard answer to every question was, ‘look it up.’

If I asked how to spell something, they said, ‘look it up.’ Now wait a minute. How in the heck am I going to look up a word I don’t know how to spell?

If I asked who the 13th president of the United States was, they said, ‘look it up.’ Does that mean that they didn’t KNOW who the 13th president was?

Irritating as it was at the time, that ‘look it up’ philosophy has proven to be very beneficial. Now that I’m writing full time, I find myself ‘looking it up’ more than ever. Here are three of my favorite sites, places I go time and again whenever I find myself having to research.

1. Wikipedia Who’d thunk it? After all those years of looking it up in World Book, my favorite source for online research would be another encyclopedia! But this is so much more than your average fact book. Besides pages and pages of helpful information, this nifty site includes more than your local library with its Help Desk, Reference Desk, multiple language capability and Community Portal. Got a question? Post it on Wikipedia’s bulletin board. Also, be sure to check out all of Wikipedia’s sister sites, including Wiktionary and Wikiversity.

2. DEA – Official site of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. What better place to research illegal drugs, law enforcement, or drug policy, than from the pros themselves? Referred to me by an actual police officer, this site has proven to be a valuable tool, full of beneficial information. Best of all, I know it’s accurate.

3. The Writer’s Medical and Forensics Lab Okay, so unless you’re a medical examiner, you probably don’t know how long it takes for rigor mortis to set in, or what the effects of monkshood are on a person’s nervous system. But this guy does, and let me tell you, he’s good. Post your question, wait anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and voila! He’ll email you back with a detailed answer to your question, as well as offer suggestions for tricky scenarios and twisted plots. Not to mention he has several books available for purchase. I’m adding two of them to my wish list!

And that’s it, the short list. I’ve got lots of places bookmarked, but these are by far my top three ‘go to’ places on the web. How about you? Care to share your favorites?


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