How to Use Online Research Sources to Supplement Your Knowledge When Writing Your Book

Narrative nonfiction writers and some novelists, such as historical fiction authors or crime writers, may need to supplement their knowledge with additional research.

Often, initial research is sourced from the internet. When collecting research via the internet the question arises, “How accurate is the material or source?” Because the internet offers so much misinformation, it can be difficult to decipher fact from fiction.

As a general rule, most professional writers exclude information that is sourced from:

  • A site or an author who appears to support a particular point of view.
  • A site that contains obvious bias toward a particular agenda or belief.
  • A site that is not up-to-date.
  • A source that is shallow in depth and scope.
  • Material that does not list all sources or does not contain any facts, statistics or quotes that are verifiable.

Online Research Sources

Google Search allows you to research general subject areas or answers to specific questions. You obtain the most effective search results when you define a specific search.  

The “Advanced Search” option allows you to select to search for all these words, this exact word or phrase and any of these words or none of these words.

You can choose the file type you’re interested in, such as Adobe .pdf, Word .doc or Excel spreadsheet. You can select to search within a site or domain. The section last update allows you to select how recent the page was created or updated. Region permits you to focus on a specific country.

To find pages similar to another website, insert “related:” in front of the domain name (for example, To find out information about a site, insert “info:” in front of the domain name (for example,

Google Books searches the full text of books and magazines that Google has scanned, converted to text and stored in its digital database.

Google News Archive provides access to scanned archives of newspapers and links to other newspaper archives on the internet.

Google Scholar allows you to search academic articles and case law.

Google Alerts is a detection and notification system that allows you to setup key words or specific terms or names, and receive an email notification whenever that specific word, term or name is published on the internet. 

Online Libraries. Most colleges and university libraries serve the public as well as students and faculty. You can access online catalogs to search library holdings for books, periodicals, videos, and audios. Most allow you to search by title, author, keyword, or subject heading, as well as through databases and articles.