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Google and Beyond: Eight Internet Tools That Can Save Time and Money
by Susan Denney

If you are serious about writing for dollars, then you know that time is money. And you also know that doing research takes time. Even the simplest article will require some kind of fact-check or information source. Though you might love spending hours in the library or on the telephone, by the time you've verified all the information for an article, you could find that your pay per hour is pretty low.

A great way to maximize research time is to start on the Internet. While the Internet is not always acceptable as a primary source, it is brilliant at finding those articles and experts which editors love.

How to find what you need? Here are some websites and tools that can help.

1. www.google.com This powerful search engine is so pervasive that it has become a verb around the world. "To google" in English and "googler" in French mean the same thing, that is, to look something up on the world's largest search engine. But what happens when I type the name of my hometown into the Google search box? The website brings up over two million websites for Denton, Texas. That seems like a lot, but remember that Google websites are listed by relevance. The first five or so are going to be the most likely ones to provide the information needed for a travel article about my hometown.

2. www.wikipedia.com Near the top of most Google searches are articles from the online encyclopedia that's written by people like you and me. Anyone who registers on Wikipedia can add or edit articles. This sounds scary and unreliable, but in fact, it works quite well. Controversies rage about its accuracy, but Wikipedia contains a lot more information than traditional encyclopedias. When I search for Denton, Wikipedia gives me a map, history, information about festivals, education and transportation. For research purposes, the most important part of the Wikipedia article is the section marked "external links." Many of the websites listed at the bottom would qualify as primary sources.

3. www.m-w.com The most basic fact check of all is spelling. The spellcheckers in word processors are getting better and better at finding misspelled words but they're not intended to spell or define them correctly. Enter Merriam-Webster's online dictionary and thesaurus. Not only is it quicker than looking up a word in a print dictionary, but it also contains the new words that are added to the English language each year. I'm not ready to give up on my print dictionaries, but a quick trip to this website saves time.

4. profnet.prnewswire.com Ever notice how consumer magazine articles are filled with quotes by PhDs? When you need someone with authority, try PR Newswire's database. You must register for this site but it can connect you to professionals, public relations specialists and experts who are willing to be interviewed on a variety of topics.

5. www.amazon.com This is another path to finding an expert. Looking up your topic on Amazon will find you the most recent books written on the subject. The authors of these books are anxious to be interviewed. Your mention of their book in an article means sales for them. This site also helps you decide if your slant on the topic is unique.

6. www.howstuffworks.com Not quite sure how a UPC barcode works? Confused by international exchange rates? Wondering about global warming? Maybe you're not a scientist or an economist but the information in your writing needs to be as accurate as you can make it. This website is the place that explains phenomena like rainbows, quarks or even barcodes. It's heavy on advertising but when you find the article you need, the site provides simple explanations and even charts, diagrams and videos.

7. library.uncg.edu/news/ This service which is provided by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro lists the best newspapers online. Brief descriptions of the online newspapers as well as information on archives, costs and registration make this site a valuable source of information.

8. Subscription databases. As wonderful as the Internet can be, not all the information is free. Your public library may be able to provide remote access to subscription-based databases. Using these services online in your home can save a time-consuming trip to the library. Less gasoline and more time means money for you. My local librarian gave me a card with the login and password for our public library's subscriptions. Now I can read articles from newspapers and scholarly journals as well as review genealogical documents, historical maps and other information not available to the general public.

Good information is at the tips of your fingers. The Internet is waiting to save you time and money. Happy researching!

© Copyright 2007, Susan Denney

Susan Denney is a freelance writer living in Pennsylvania. She has published childrenÂ’s fiction and nonfiction as well as adult articles on a variety of topics. Check out her website at www.susandenney.com.

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