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Research central

Trudging to the library to do research is increasingly a thing of the past, especially if you know the right online sites to visit. Take a look at this roadmap for your research journey.

It might be good news only for parents, but it won’t belong before school is in session again. One bit of positivity for students is that in doing research, trudging to the library is mostly a thing of the past; the Web is full of fantastically comprehensive research and informational sites.

One of the best places to start when searching for elusive facts is iTools. The site lets you do a keyword search under a wide variety of categories, including discussion groups, online dictionaries (regular and tech), translators, periodicals, quotation anthologies, phone directories, and much more. iTools occasionally directs your search to a separate page, where you have to retype your search terms, but beyond that flaw, it’s an excellent starting point.

If you’re not a book geek, getting an assignment about a work of literature can be hazardous to your health. That’s where Bartleby comes in. Bartleby’s vast arsenal of reference sources includes various types of dictionaries, encyclopedias, thesauri, books of quotations, mythology, fables, style guides, cookbooks, anatomy volumes, medical texts, and more. Plus, there’s a searchable database of classic fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, with special archival sections devoted to everyone from George Bernard Shaw to Gertrude Stein to H.L. Mencken. Bartleby was named Best Literary Resource of 2002 by “Yahoo Internet Life,” and it’s easy to see why.

Whether it’s for geographical research or travel planning, map sites are one of the Web’s most valuable resources. Another good general reference site is, but a favorite section of Refdesk is its geography links page. Here you can find maps of every shape, size, and location, including such specialty sites as the Green Map System of community sustainability, maps of pending and current road construction, latitude and longitude figures for any city, rare and historical maps, and real-time satellite’s-eye views of locations worldwide.

How well do you know your physical constants? Are you familiar with the static and kinetic coefficients of friction? These and other more esoteric areas of study are addressed on the Physics and Astronomy Reference Page. This site has links to pages in such far-flung areas as decimal multiples and prefixes, the Greek alphabet, nuclear and particle data, unit conversion, the periodic table of the elements, an atomic clock with the exact time, and a humidex and wind chill calculator.

If you’re reeling after a spin through physics and astronomy (the way mine was), maybe you can take a break by amassing some truly useless knowledge. CoolQuiz is full of the stuff, and it rewards regular visits with daily updated tidbits (it was Chuy’s National Taco Day the last time I stopped by–ay, caramba!). A look around will reveal tens of thousands of trivia tidbits and essays on the most banal things you never knew (like how your fingernails grow). Maybe your chem professor will never ask you what the most common place name in Great Britain is, but the answer (Newton) is here if you need it.

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