By Nancy Marie
Any truly proficient liar knows that the best lie, the most believable lie, is one that is based on truth. And any really good novelist knows that to make their works believable there must also be an element of truth behind their stories. To acquire this element of truth, however, is not always easy. Sometimes it requires research, and that for many people whether they be writer, student, or just someone possessed of an inquiring mind, can prove to be a daunting if not overwhelming task.
One of the first requirements for doing accurate research is to have on hand a liberal and eclectic research library. I have found that garage sales and second-hand stores are a great way to secure excellent research books. Among my most treasured finds include such diverse titles as: American Rifle Design and Performance, The Armourer and His Craft: From the XIth Century to the XIth Century, In Search of the Dark Ages, Sun Tzu: The Art of War, The Horseman's Bible, Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, and I won't go on because I think you get the idea.
However, because of book shelf and monetary limitations most people can't stock on-hand books on every subject needed to perform accurate research. That's where my most valued tool comes into play. The Internet. Prior, to Internet access, I was a frequent pest at my local library, requesting books on inter-library loan from all over the United States. It was time consuming and also required a lot of patience, as I frequently had to wait up to three months for my local library to find and request the books I needed. The Internet has put an end to all of that, providing me with the information I need with just a few flicks of the finger.
Sounds simple and it is, once you know the trick of using search engines effectively. To begin with a search engine is a program that was developed to search different web sites in the world-wide-web (www). There is always a line for the user to enter the "key words." And that is often the tricky and frustrating part of using a search engine. But once you know the rules, it's not too hard.
For example, let's say you want to find out information on how to nurse orphan kittens. (Something I was tasked with doing this summer when my neighbor's cat gotten eaten by coyotes and they had to leave on vacation. I didn't have a clue as to how take care of three week-old kittens, so I turned to the Internet). In the key word search line, I entered "caring for orphan kittens." Now, I could have entered just the word, "kittens" but that would have given me probably thousands of links covering everything from kittens for sale to some rather unsavory X-rated links that I'd rather not have to deal with. By being more specific, I was able to reduce the number of links that I had to peruse and eliminate all the ones I had no interest in seeing.
Furthermore, and here's the real trick to using search engines, I surrounded the words, caring for orphan kittens with quote marks so it looked like this, "caring for orphan kittens". When you put your key words in quote marks it tells the search engine to look for exactly that phrase and nothing else. This also helps to narrow down your search. The other trick you can use when entering your key words is to put a plus (+) mark between each word, so that it looks like this "caring+for+orphan+kittens". This technique also helps narrow down your search fields. Some, search engines, specifically my favorite, www.google.com, do this automatically, so all I have to do is add the quote marks to ensure that my field of search is as narrow as possible.
Other great search engines include: www.dogpile.com, www.mama.com, www.altavista.com, and everybody's favorite: www.yahoo.com. Search engines vary in their appearance and their field of searches. So if you can't find what you want on one, try another one. Also, you can search - search engines by putting on the key word line something like this, "orphan kittens search engines." What this will do is ask the search engine to search for search engines that will list other search engines dealing only with orphan kittens. (I don't think an orphan kitten search engine actually exists, but with the Internet anything is possible.)
To give you a head start on your research projects, I am listing some of my favorite web sites, but since my tastes are rather selective do to my school studies, they may not be for everyone. But here goes:
I could go on but I won't as I think this list gives you an idea of what's out there on the Internet. So, happy searching and have fun doing it.
The programs that
search engines use to search the world-wide-web are called, most appropriately:
No research library can be considered complete without a copy of this classical work. Written by Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinch's Mythology is a compilation of several of his works including: Age of Fable, 1855, The Age of Chivalry, 1858, and Legends of Charlemagne, 1863.
Since the Bulfinch's Mythology is a compilation of several of Bulfinch's previous works it is laid out in distinct sections. The first third of the book is devoted to ancient Greek and Roman mythology and is a detailed account of almost every myth on record from both of these ancient civilizations. Whether you want to know how many sons and daughters Zeus had, or who warned Ulysses to be watch out for the two monsters: Scylla and Charybdis, you'll find the answer in Bulfinch's Mythology.
Following the section on Greek and Roman mythology are several short sections covering the mythology of ancient Egypt, Eastern Mythology including Zorasterism, Hindu, and Buddhist mythology, a section on Norse Mythology, and section on the Druids. These short sections are then followed by a long, comprehensive accounting of the Arthurian legends (King Arthur, Merlin, Camelot, etc.) The great heroes of Great Britain's medieval period follow King Arthur and his knights, and a detailed accounting of Charlemagne's heroic deeds closes Bulfinch's actual work. A comprehensive index and dictionary concludes the book, and this is a great tool for locating the names and basic characteristics of these ancient gods and goddesses. (It really comes in handy when trying to resolve some of the more obtuse New Your Times crossword puzzle questions).
The only problem I have encountered when using Bulfinch's Mythology
is it's significant lack of Celtic mythology. Except for the section
on the Druids, no mention is made of either Irish or Scottish mythology
which is especially unfortunate today when there is so much interest
in the ancient lore from both these countries. However, the book's in-depth
coverage of all the other ancient mythologies still make it a must-have
for any reference library.
What makes this reference book unique is the abundance of quotes from ancient Greek writers. This book is not another retelling or interpretation of the ancient myths, but rather, using ancient manuscripts, it is an accurate accounting of how women in ancient Greece not only lived, but also how they thought. For example, the reader will find liberal quotes from such ancient female poets as Anyte, Nossis, and Sapphos.
Interestingly enough, the author also quotes many famous male writers and philosophers on their view of women. Plato is quoted as saying, "...for there is no special faculty of administration in a state which a woman has because she is a woman, or which a man has by virtue of his sex, but the gifts of nature are diffused in both..." (Pretty liberal thinking for someone who lived over two-thousand years ago.) On the other hand, the author also quotes Plato as saying that women are prone to secrecy and stealth. (Seems that Plato was as confused about women as most men are today.)
In addition, there
is an extensive bibliography at the end of the book, which gives the
reader "chapter and verse" and page number in order to verify
the author's information or to do additional research. There is also
a "Suggested Reading" list for those wishing to know even
more about life in ancient Greece. All in all, Women of Ancient Greece
will prove to be a welcomed addition to any reference library.