“Research is tricky and time consuming, but there are a couple of ways of approaching it. First things first, internet is a fast way to get information, but it’s not always accurate. You need to start building your research library. That can get expensive, so I would get a library membership or find a good used bookstore. Libraries are writer’s best friend.”
“If you are researching something that you know nothing about, don’t start with the websites. Start with books for children. You can pick up a ton of kid titles at the library on just about any subject. Books for children are great for a number of reasons: they are usually scrutinized for accuracy, they are cheaper, and they have lots and lots of pictures, but most of all they parse the information in easily digestible chunks.”
“…Once you get the basics down, it’s time to move on more advanced knowledge. By now you should have the general idea of the subject and you sort of know what you’re looking for in terms of information. I would recommend getting at least two books on the subject. If the library is good, I’d suggest four or five.”
“…But at least two. This way you can cross-check them against each other. Unless we are dealing with straight facts, such as honey is made by bees or pure table salt (NaCl) is 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight, you may come up against several different versions or interpretations. Books, even scholarly books, do contradict each other.”
“The best resource is not books or websites. It’s people. Find somebody who is an expert in the subject you’re researching and ask them. If I want to know about anime, I’ll ask Kid 1. If I want to know about 80′s music, I’ll ask Gordon. If I want to ask about orchids, I’d ask Mindy. If I want to know about Atlanta, I’d ask Jana Oliver. / Talk to people. They will love telling you about their interests and passions.”
Okay, so her advice actually relates to writing fiction, but 100% applies to ‘everyday’ research… however, I liked her concluding comment so much that I’m going to add it for the sake of ambience:
“And, if you are serious about writing, let go of the idea that your research will be correct 100% of the time or that everyone will accept your research as correct. People argued with me about Russian language/history/customs before, because they’re read something in a book and they feel they know better. I usually respond in Russian. That shuts them right up. ”
If it’s an option, use it!