Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Search for Research

By Stacy S. Jensen

While Google is my regular online search tool, I've been using another search engine recently —Facebook.

With a billion users generating content every second of the day, this site is filled with material about people, places, and hot topics.

During the political season you can find a lot of great examples. For everyone's sanity, I will not share any here. I'll try something else.

To search, you go to the search box on Facebook. Here's an example of searching for "Colorado Springs sunsets."

Facebook shared several posts from that evenings sunset shared by local friends and those in other states. They have friends here, too. Facebook also shared a variety of sunset photos posted by strangers.

The search engine here allows you to search information by who posted it, tagged locations, and dates posted.

Recently, I've used the search option research a novel idea. Within a few keystrokes, Facebook compiled a variety of posts, links, and pictures associated with the topic. Facebook doesn't limit your search to your friends. You can choose "anyone" and see public posts for your search.

By looking at real people's discussions, I found everything from conspiracy theories to political party talking points. I also gained insight about the tone and demeanor of the people on each side. I did all this without interviewing friends (or strangers). Instead, I just read their real words.

Trending stories are also a great way to discover what people are saying about a topic. I tend to look for the public post in this area. The quality of the posts varies by topic. Celebrity or political stories tend to trend a lot. I gravitate to the rant-ish posts.

If you dig beyond the people who post about a celebrity only to complain that the celebrity is trending, it's fascinating to see how people talk about news stories, hot topics, and celebrities. While your close friends may stick to Facebook Happy-type posts, people who post publicly thankfully don't.

Facebook also provides the option to save links in your account, so you can read links later.

While researching on Facebook, you may fall victim to the newsfeed and tumble down an assortment of "what's for dinner photos," political endorsements, and cute cat videos. That's OK. Turn off your notifications and get busy.

All these interactions may result in future research for your next novel. And, who knows, your posts may show up in someone else's story search. 

About the Author: Stacy S. Jensen worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for two decades. Today, she writes picture books and fiction. She lives in Colorado Springs with her husband and son.