Thursday, February 26, 2009

Researching on the Web

By Christine Duncan

Using the web for research can appear to be the easiest way to research your topic. But beware! You always need to check your source. When I researched domestic violence statistics for my mystery, I ran into a range of numbers that set domestic violence in the U.S at anywhere from one in ten women to one-half of all women. I chose the statistics that could be backed up by the FBI's Uniform Crime reports as being the most accurate and up to date.
Before we get to the list of helpful websites, I just want to note that the first place you should probably start with research on the web is again--close to home. If your area writer's group has a list serve or chat group, let your research needs be known. I did this when I needed blood splatter information and in one email to my area writer's group let over 200 writers know what I was looking for. Better yet, I got an answer from a fellow writer who volunteered her FBI crime scene detective husband as a research source. The upshot of this was that not only did I get my questions answered, but when the group heard what happened, they invited the FBI man to talk to the group about crime scenes. So we all benefited. Don't be shy! This is the ultimate way to network.
If your research needs are complicated, don’t forget that there are many courses offered online.

And last but not least, the reason you're reading this article: a few places that mystery writers can use for research. So scroll down and see if you can find a jumping off point for your own research needs.
As always though, I have to add the disclaimer--do your homework and check out the people giving you the answers. Just because a web site appears on this list doesn't mean it's right for you. It is just a site that I've run into at one time or another that I thought to be helpful..
Also remember that all sites have a bias of one sort or another. A lawyer may not see things the way a cop does or the way a criminal would.


Carpenter's List of Forensic Science Resources: Just what it says--a list of links on everything from Arson to locating Forensic experts.

The Graveyard Shift A blog about police procedure and investigation To quote from the group description “A forum for asking and answering crime scene investigation, applied forensics, and police procedure questions for fiction or non-fiction writers.” They encourage questions.


Real Police Great looking site. Articles and info about cops. The ask-a-cop message board promises that messages are monitored by real cops who will answer your questions.


Guns America
A site to buy or sell guns. Since the guns are for sale, they've included pictures, which I found helpful, along with a brief description. Sorted by date as well as by type of gun,--interesting stuff for an historical mystery--or a modern day one. This group says in its blurb that writers make many errors regarding weapons of all types. They want to help. The bios of the moderator and consultants are available.

National Institute of Health
Tons of information. Diseases, symptoms, drugs and their side effects, it's all here.


And finally a site that has even more links to a ton of research sites for every mystery writer’s needs--

Christine Duncan is the author of the Kaye Berreano mystery series.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

I do not write mystery, but my friend p.m. terrell does, and I know she uses her extensive police and FBI connections to back up her facts!

L. Diane Wolfe

Jenn Nixon said...

Great post! Thanks for those links, didn't have some of them!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning The Graveyard Shift. I'd also like to tell your readers they can feel free to send me their questions about police procedure/forensics/CSI.

If I don't know the answer I'm sure I can direct them to someone who can. I'm in daily contact with law enforcement professionals, forensics experts, crime scene investigators, etc., all over the country. I even have overseas contacts.

By the way, I hope to see some of you at the Writers Police Academy in April. It's a hands-on event where writers will have the opportunity to learn things like fingerprinting, handcuffing, etc., from police officers and federal agents who are also published authors. I'm the keynote speaker.

Pam Ripling said...

Wow, what a wealth of information! Thanks Christine and also Lee for the great resources. A keeper blog for sure!


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Thank you so much for this wonderful information.

aka F. M. Meredith

Morgan Mandel said...

I love using the Internet for research. It's so handy, especially Google.

Thanks for sharing some great info.

Morgan Mandel

Dana Fredsti said...

I love the internet, but I still really enjoy going to a library and checking out books for research too...

Great links, btw!

Jean Henry Mead said...

Great article, Christine! Thank you.