Wednesday 18 January 2012

What would a writer do without Wikipedia?

When I was at university in the early 1990s we were given a list of books to use as research for our essays at the beginning of term. There would usually only be one or two copies of each book in the university library. Sometimes it was impossible to get hold of the book we needed.

Now we have the internet which has changed everything.

I've been writing Book 2 this week and I'm still unsure about certain aspects of the plot. Unable to decide on what object the heroine would find in her gran's loft at the beginning of the story, I searched Wikipedia for information on the options I had in mind and quickly made my decision.

When I was revising my latest draft of Book 1, 'The Grandson' last summer I used Wikipedia. I was rewriting a scene set in New York where the hero and heroine are reunited. I needed to know details about the Chrysler building, The Rockefeller Center and The Empire State Building. Within seconds Wikipedia told me what I needed to know and I switched between Wikipedia and Word whilst adding the final touches. Of course there are other sources of information on the internet but Wikipedia is great for giving the basic details about anything. I even looked up different types of pine trees once to find out where they grow and when they produce pine cones to help with a scene set by the sea in Italy during late August.

I'd be interested to know if you use Wikipedia for research or if you have any other comments.


  1. Anita,
    Great post and a topic I'd been thinking about too. My 15yr old son just handed in a school assignment and all the bibliography contained was a list of websites, including Wikipedia. I felt a bit sad that he never seems to need to visit the library like you and I did. But in saying that, my WIP would be so much harder to write without the internet. No one can deny that it's invaluable having research info at your fingertips from the comfort of your own home but I still miss an excuse to visit a library.

  2. Hi Anita, I don't use Wikipedia that much though I like how it can keep my research more focused on the aspects I need out of HUGE topics. I still visit the library and google on stuff I need. I think I can probably do without Wikipedia but definitely not without the Internet.


  3. I love Wikipedia! When I was doing travel writing, I always used it to get me started on the right track. I always cross-referenced, though. Quite often, the information on there wasn't 100 per cent correct, so I learned to be careful.

  4. Thanks so much for your comments. I still use loads of books for research but find Wikipedia handy for looking up something quickly or for working out which route to take when structuring the plot.

  5. Yes I can see how it is a good tool for writers.I was at college a few years ago and we weren't allowed to use Wikipedia for any of our essays, probably just a personal thing for that particular tutor but I think you do have to double check the information. Looking forward to reading your books when they're published.

  6. Interesting post Anita. I've been on google all week researching Thailand for my new novel. I couldn't manage without the internet. I don't use Wikipedia much. I got caught out once and some information for a presentation I did was inaccurate. I usually cross-reference different sites now to make sure info is correct. I suppose we are all putting our trust in what we read.Like you I seem to spend hours collecting facts and mulling stories over in my head, before actually getting down to the real writing. x

  7. The day that Wikipedia closed down, I realised how much I used it. I'd found for myself what an invaluable tool for a writer it is.

    Liz X

  8. Absolutely agree! The internet and Wiki in particular, is a great resource for writers. I wrote a WWI story that I could never have done without spending hours in the library, and I just don't have time to do that these days! When I was at uni we were only just getting into being able to find research papers online. Most of the time I spent going from campus to campus to find things. It'd be soooo much easier now!

    Also, I have nominated you for the Versatile Blogger award! You need to read the page on my blog for details… Beware, it’s a bit time consuming but a nice accolade to share…

  9. Thank you Anne (Cassam), Michelle, Liz and Susi (SJIHolliday) for your comments. Michelle, I agree that it's worth double-checking some information found on Wikipedia.

    Thanks Susi for the award!

  10. Interesting post! I tend to use Wikipedia if I need to double check something that I already think is right, or to get a general overview of something. For more in depth research I tend to steer clear of Wikipedia and pick my websites very carefully - I had it drummed into me at uni to be very careful of online sources so I'm probably a little over-cautious these days!