Journalism, detective work, biography, historical fiction: Investigation is basic to them all. Fellow authors ask with a grimace, “But doesn’t your writing take a lot of research?” Absolutely! That’s much of the fun.
Where to begin? Instructors warn students not to use Wikipedia as a source. It’s unreliable; anyone can write anything there. On the other hand, anyone can correct errors and add new findings. It's often a great starting place. The guidance should be, don’t trust Wikipedia or cite it as an authority.
Anonymous tips give detectives and journalists essential leads for where to search and what questions to ask. The anonymous source carries no weight in a court of law, nor should it make news headlines outside of the tabloids. Like Wikipedia, it’s a beginning, not a conclusion. For any form of reputable research, we get pointers where we can. Then we set about the hard work of ferreting out the facts.
Click here for Wikipedia’s tips for using its site for research.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.