Researching on the Cheap: Part 3 – Search Terms – The Great Mystery

Well, it isn’t really a mystery, but I have to admit that it can feel that way sometimes when you can’t find the information that you want. When we first started I told you that you needed to keep track of every search that you did and every search term that you used. Well, I want to emphasize how critical this is. You also need to be paying attention to the quality of the results that you are getting.

Let me give you an example. If you want to research Vikings, what should you search for? If you search for Vikings you will get some good sites, often museums or shops that are catering to sensationalist modern culture. You will also get advertisements for Minnesota Viking jewelry and a lot of junk. What other word could you use as a search term? How about Norse? How about Scandanavian? Don’t be afraid to use very specific terms – ancient Norwegian, ancient Copenhagen, Ribe, Hedeby…If you know any specific geographic locations where Viking artifacts or towns have been found, use them. Write down what you have used. Write down other ideas that you get from sites that you have visited.

One problem that you may encounter is words that have more than one meaning or are inaccurately named in popular culture, for instance, Viking Wire Weaving. Wire weaving was NOT invented by the Vikings. It existed long before the Vikings – the Egyptians were using it by 2500 BC. If you search for Viking Wire Weaving you will find some information. You can also search for wire weaving, or you can search for the technical name for wire weaving – trichinopoly. The problem with the word trichinopoly is that it is the name of a region of India that is known for its quality cigars, so you will have to scroll down farther to get past the cigars, but then you will get to serious metalworking sites. You also need to remember this term as a search term for looking through museum sites, but more about that later.

I mentioned the concept of getting ideas from the sites that you visit. For instance, if you find an artifact that you are interested in, consider tracking it down. Look for the location where it was found. Was it part of a hoard or a grave find? Where is it now? Is it in a museum? Does the museum have a digitized collection?

One of the basic problems of doing research is that you have to know something in order to get really good results. Read a couple of articles in order to get a better feel for what might be out there. Keep going through the pages of sites from your search, don’t give up after just what shows up on the first page. And use Google Scholar. Once you have an idea about what you are looking for, academic articles may provide you with a wealth of information.

Next time: Determining which Goodies are really GOOD.