AOH :: HOWTO304.TXT|
How to find authoritative background on any subject
HOW TO FIND AUTHORITATIVE BACKGROUND ON ANY SUBJECT
When you're doing research or looking for information on a
particular subject, it's a lot like a detective checking all his
possible clues. The important thing is knowing who or where your
In almost all instances, your first move should be to your
encyclopedia. If you don't have an up-to-date set, there's always
your public library.
Most of the time, an encyclopedia will give you at least the general
facts about your subject. You may have to check other sources for
more detailed information.
Thus, your next move should be to books that have been written on
the subject. The subject and title sections of the card catalog or
the bound volumes of computer print outs in most public libraries
will give you plenty of listings.
After you've selected a number of books for background information,
check the magazines either directly related to your subject, or
those carrying articles on the subject. Most of the time, you'll
find that magazines will provide you with more up-to-date and timely
information than books.
To check out information on your subject in magazines, look in the
Reader's Guide To Periodical Literature. Under subject and author
headings, the complete collection of this guide will list articles
printed in magazines since the turn of the century. The Suggestions
For Use section will instruct you on how to read the codes under
each heading. If you can't find your subject listed, think of
similar subjects that might be related.
If your subject is part of a particular field of study, there may be
a special index that will help you. Among these special indexes,
you'll find: Art Index, Business Periodicals Index, Consumers
Index, Education Index, Humanities Index, Social Sciences Index,
Biological and Agricultural Index, and Applied Sciences and
Technology Index. You'll even find a Popular Periodicals Index
which lists articles that have appeared in currently popular
You'll also find that most newspapers are veritable goldmines of
reference material. Most of the big city newspapers have
computerized indexes. Several of the special national newspapers
such as the Wall Street Journal also have reference indexes.
Without a doubt, the New York Times Index is the most complete. In
these newspaper indexes, subjects and people are listed
alphabetically with the date, page number, and usually with the
number of columns devoted to that particular story. About all you
have to do to avail yourself of this information is to stop by the
newspaper office, tell them the kind of information you're looking
for, and ask their help in locating it within their index.
Facts on File is a world news digest that's found at most public
libraries. This is a weekly publication that's broken down into
four categories: World Affairs, U.S. Affairs, Other Nations, and
Editorials on File is a similar service that comes out twice each
month. It is a survey of newspaper editorials that span a wide
range of subjects.
If you want to know about business trends, you should ask for and
look at the Moody's Reports. These cover banking and finance,
industry and public utilities.
Most large public libraries also keep pamphlet files for brochures
from various information services and government agencies. Be sure
to ask about these.
Whenever you have a question or want more information on a subject,
always check first in the material that has been written about it.
Public libraries and news papers are free, and will definitely point
you in the right direction even if you don't know much about
One of the best sources of information is people. Ask around and
more often than not, you'll find someone right in your own area who
is well versed on your subject. An introductory phone call and an
explanation as to why you're researching the subject will almost
always lead you to many people who will be glad to talk with you.
Interviewing and talking with people will give you the chance to ask
questions and hear specific explanations about the details that may
not be fully covered in a book, newspaper or other publication.
When interviewing, your questions should be open-ended. In other
words, questions which do not allow for a simple yes or no. You
should get the people you're talking with to discuss their
experiences relative to the subject. Pose hypothetical situations,
asking what they would do or what would happen under a given set of
Researching and gathering information on a particular subject can be
fun, exciting and very informative. It will never be dull or
boring. The important thing is to search out all the available
sources, and then to take advantage of them. From there, you'll
find it's very much like putting a jigsaw puzzle together; the
closer you get to completing the picture, the more excited you
Many people find that when they begin a research project on a
specific subject, they quickly uncover so many interesting related
subjects that it's hard to confine their enthusiasm to just the one
subject. This is what learning is all about, regardless of the use
you eventually make of the information you gather. The more you
learn, the more you want to learn.
Curiosity about all things, and good, basic research are the prime
requisites for any successful writer. To have read about or
experienced only a few aspects of a given subject won't interest
very many people. What the people want is a thorough discussion of
the subject from as many different points of view as possible. This,
of course, requires research, and to do research, you have to know
where to find the material you want.
Hopefully, we've "turned you on" with the idea that the information
you're interested in is available and virtually at your fingertips.
All it takes is just a bit of effort on your part to avail yourself
of it. Just remember, whatever has been thought of or dreamed of by
man since the beginning of time has been written about, and you can
learn about it with a reasonable amount of searching.
The entire AOH site is optimized to look best in Firefox® 3 on a widescreen monitor (1440x900 or better).
Site design & layout copyright © 1986- AOH
We do not send spam. If you have received spam bearing an artofhacking.com email address, please forward it with full headers to firstname.lastname@example.org.