Out of the Closet on Research

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Someone's coming!

Someone’s coming!

“If you’re having trouble writing a story, it’s because you haven’t done enough research.”

That was a helpful tip about writer’s block from the editor who first published my work, but never a problem I’d encounter. Researching is my favorite, kind of like Buddy the Elf likes smiling. I once searched for more than five hours to find electrical panel covers for a $50 home improvement article.

I was proud to write for less than $5 an hour. I marked it up to being competent rather than obsessive-compulsive about research.

However, there was another researching habit I kept behind closed doors. I secretly visited a certain website dozens of times daily, but only when I was home alone or in the wee hours of the morning. It was the first site I’d check to gather information, but the last I’d admit to when discussing research with writers.

You may have already guessed it – Wikipedia.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just I got the wrong first, second and third impressions.

My husband walked in one afternoon when I had Wikipedia in plain view.

“Anyone can add to that site. You know that, right?” he said.

“Someone monitors the additions, don’t they?”

He didn’t know.

Next, a writer friend told me she wouldn’t be caught dead using Wikipedia.

By the time I heard an editor talk about the website’s inaccuracies, I was already hiding my habit.

Still, from the shadows of my office, Wikipedia jump-starts nearly every article I write. The site shares link after link to stories that cover millions of topics. I’ve found names and dates on Wikipedia, which have led to original articles that in turn shared little known facts. And typically I find a fascinating fact or two in Wikipedia’s writeup that, when verified, turns out to be true.

So, why am I coming out with this now?

Because Wikipedia also came out of the closet. They made the cut.

Writer’s Digest, on display in stores until October 11, 2010, named Wikipedia one of the 101 best websites for writers.

From the article,“While not an end-all for fact checking by any means, Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for gathering information.”

What’s your take on Wikipedia?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Thanks, Writer’s Digest, for promoting Wikipedia and easing my guilt.

On the side:

Wikipedia on Writer’s Digest

Wikipedia on Wikipedia


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