Thursday, January 24, 2008

How to Use Wikipedia and Google as Research Tools

Looking over some old posts here, I ran across "How To Pretend You're an Expert." There's something I feel I should put a finer point on:


Wikipedia is a really nifty idea. A really nifty idea that gets abused by crackpots with an axe to grind. You have to take just about everything you read there with a grain of salt. (Depending on the subject matter, sometimes a salt shaker should be keep close at hand.)

When reading through a Wikipedia article, take note of proper nouns: places, people, things. Take note of the external links they sometimes provide at the end of articles. Follow hypertext trains of thought.

When attacking a subject with Google, specify your search with those proper nouns you took note of in Wikipedia.

The Wikipedia article on Evel Knievel turns up the name "Doug Malewicki". Googling the two names together takes me to a website of Malewicki's patents and engineering concepts. This may lead to speculating on Evel Knievel's (fictional) role as a Batman-esque superhero, utilizing devices invented by his Lucius Fox-esque gadget man, Doug Malewicki. Like that time Evel used Robosaurus to defeat communism. This is a crappy example, but perhaps you get the idea.

The idea is to ferret out the cubby holes of knowledge and camp out there.