LMGTFY (Let Me Google That For You)

There’s been a running joke throughout my career as a criminal investigator that my Google works better than other people’s Google. I routinely find tidbits and data points that others can’t. It’s a handy skill to have as an investigator but it stumped me for years, wondering where that skill came from. It occurred to me as I’ve been finishing up the current revision of my latest novel – it’s because I’m a writer. As writers, we learn to describe everything from facial expressions to a city block to worlds that exist only in our imaginations. We hide clues in plain sight. We figure out ways to say the same thing eighteen different ways. In short, we use our words. This is a critical skill in research. Whether it’s researching the aurora borealis or the Aurora Incident, the method is the same. Start with the topic at its highest level then drill down or pivot on points of interest. Hone the search terms as new ways to approach the subject reveal themselves by what’s turned up. Keep going until you get to the level of detailed information you intended to find, and keep notes about the nuggets you found along the way. Not finding what you want? Find another way to phrase it. When I was little, before the days when I could search for information using only a cell phone, I discovered that libraries had information desks. I could call the information desk of my local library and they would research any question I dreamed up. It got to the point where I would invariably ask more questions when they called me back with the previous answer. After one particular week in the summer when I kept asking more and more questions, the research librarian spent an afternoon with me to show me how to do the research myself. The reason for all my questions? I was writing a story. I owe a lot to that librarian. That one skill set changed my life. I wish I remembered her name. I think I’ll Google it.

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