- What is the Malayalam word for grandmother?
- What type of government is most common in rural South Indian communities?
- What is a good recipe for Indian sambar?
- What is a folk remedy for malaria?
- How is a sitar played?
These are just a few of the questions I needed answered for my last book in the Blessings in India trilogy. My solution? The internet, of course!
What a difference from the olden days when research required the library, or an encyclopedia, or perusal of a stack of old National Geographics. The easiest thing back then was to limit all written words to English, skip unfamiliar government references, forget about recipes, pray you never got malaria, and stick with the guitar. Easier, yes, but it also left writing less colorful and—in my opinion—less interesting.
Actually, today our challenge as writers isn’t so much finding what we need to know as separating it from all the stuff we don’t need to know.
If you are only looking for quick answers, the internet is the 21st century equivalent of searching out a 20th century ready-reference bookshelf. The trick is to find the right site that will give you the answer you need, quickly and reliably. (A good one is www.britannica.com .) I have a folder under “Favorites” with my preferred sites in it. I’ve added notations about appropriateness for specific needs. And I have just about worn out www.Ask.com !
Still, even with everything available at your fingertips, sometimes the best approach of all is just to ask the research librarian.
“There is no substitute for face-to-face reporting and research.”