In the age of fact-checking and conflict of interest, clients and editors are cracking down on what they consider acceptable sources. And this means more (and more in-depth) research than ever before. It also means you must find independent sources that aren’t published or funded by anyone with a conflicting interest, or influenced by industry.
These research tools will help you find reputable sources for your articles and ultimately cut your search time. They’ll inspire ideas for new articles and queries. And they’re all pretty damn awesome if you’re a non-fiction writer. This list is made for curious minds.
So let’s start this off with a look at an old-school resource with a digital upgrade:
Use The Library, From Home
Start by checking with your local library. Chances are they pay subscription fees so that users (like you!) can access trusted resources (many times online, from home) with nothing more than your current library card.
There are also a number of national libraries with online resources that you can search from your desk – and as a bonus, you’ll find a ton of free ebooks, too!
Bookmark these in a folder to get started:
#2 – Library of Congress
#4 – National Archives
(though it’s no longer being updated, there’s a ton of info here)
Quick Tip: If you’re a student, take advantage of any digital research tools or databases that are included in your tuition.
Internet Research Tools For Writers
Of course, there’s (#7) Google Scholar, but there’s also:
#8 – Project Gutenberg
Over 54,000 free ebooks – good for topic research and ebook marketing, so it’s not just cause it’s 54,000 ebooks. But it kinda is. 🙂
#9 – Archive
A treasure trove of digital goodies.
#10 – FindArticles
Free print articles of over 500 publications going back to 1998.
#11 – Digital History
Curates info on every historical subject imaginable.
#12 – BioMed Central
#13 – Artcyclopedia
A fun site where you can search over 9,000 artists, among other things.
#14 – The Bonus Round
And if those weren’t enough, check out Connected Researchers.
Seriously, click that and just scroll down a little bit. You won’t be disappointed.
Pretty damn cool, right? That oughta keep both of us busy!
After all, curiosity is necessary for freelance writing, so I know you’re gonna get just as sucked into that list as I did. 🙂
Ask An Expert
Sometimes you need a question answered that’s too specific for Google – and you need a reputable source to answer, not page six of your search results. These next resources are all about asking the experts.
#15 – Ask A Biologist
Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, Arizona State University has a handy web page where you can ask a biologist a question. Just click the ‘Ask A Question’ icon in the upper left-hand corner.
#16 – Ask A Professional
Looking for a quick source – or just got some serious time to kill? Type ask a into your Google search bar and add a space (or click the link in the heading and add a space) for all kinds of answers to questions you didn’t even realize you wanted to ask.
Here are the suggested results in Google:
#17 – Journalist’s Toolbox
If you’re looking for a credible source to cite in your writing, try this site. There are tons of additional resources – and you can find expert sources by category!
#18 – Help A Reporter Out
HARO is another great tool for finding reputable sources for your work. As a bonus, if you’re an expert yourself (say you’ve written a book or a blog on a specific topic and want to cement your credibility as an expert) you can sign up as a source, too.
There are some criteria for submitting source requests through HARO, one being that the site you’re writing for has to have an Alexa rating of one million or less, but this can also be a valuable source of interviewees for podcasters with their own sites.
#19 – ProfNet
If you’re worried about that Alexa ranking or just want more versatility, ProfNet has a ton of features, like their query parameters: you post an explanation of what you’re looking for, the deadline you need a response by, and how you’d like to be contacted. Poof! Simple.
Then there are Expert Alerts: There are three editions of this newsletter and you can subscribe to one or all, depending on your niche(s). They include Business, Finance & Technology; Government, Law, Education & Science; and Health, Living & Entertainment. The newsletters highlight experts in topics related to timely subjects in these fields, making them absolutely perfect for brainstorming targeted content and pitch ideas.
If that weren’t enough, you can also search profiles (and create one!), interact in the forums, request that your query be broadcast on their Twitter feed if you’re on a time-crunch and need a response that same day, and…you can connect with Spanish-speaking experts, as well!
#20 – Authoratory
Okay, so this one isn’t free, but if you’re writing in the life sciences or health niche, and filing as a self-employed writer, your subscription fee should be tax deductible as a business expense. (Check with a professional though; I’m no tax attorney.)
What Authoratory does is data mine a ton of research from all the way back in the 1950s to now, from both public and private sources, like PubMed, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Then the author info is used to create a living database of scientific experts in the fields of chemistry, medicine, and biology.
So you can look up experts:
And grant funding:
How flippin’ cool is that?!?
#21 – Crime & Forensics
I know you’re thrilled that the resources thus far will help you with your client work, but I’m guessing many of you (especially with NaNoWriMo wrapping up) are thinking, “Yeah, I guess I can ask some of these experts about the murder in my novel, but I’m tired of explaining why I want to know things, like if the kickback from a .22 would send an eight-year-old flying and, if so, how far?”
Okay, that’s probably not your exact question, but you get my drift. And you’re probably tired of asking in unreliable Facebook groups, too.
I feel you.
And so does crime writer, Sue Coletta. Which is why she’s pulled together an entire page of resources for questions like yours!
There’s a link for how a body changes postmortem, a weapons expert writer you can email with questions, detailed ballistics analysis, glass fracture patterns, criminal sexual sadist analysis, and -get this – a link to a guide the FBI published for authors, writers, and producers – plus a whole lot more. There’s even a murder blog.
No more awkward criminal-minds-y emails or social media posts. Yay! 🙂
If you’re pitching article ideas, don’t miss out on these 150 Guest Blogging Markets here on PaidWrite. They all pay and they’re organized by niche for easy reference.
And don’t miss out on the 2017 Big Holiday Wish Book For Writers, inspired by the J.C. Penny Wish Book that I circled EVERYTHING in this time of year as a kid. It’s a little of that childhood magic, with a couple cuss words cause we’re grown now. 🙂
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