List of the Top Ten Most Useful Sites

for web-based research


As a professional online researcher, I’ve developed quite a list of bookmarks — sites that I turn to when I need specialized sources of information. Google gets me through 90% of my work, but there are still many times when I need information that a simple Google search won’t provide, or that I can find more easily elsewhere.

Here’s a list of ten of my favorites — wonderful research resources that are internet-accessible and free of charge.

1. Wikipedia

Nearly everyone knows this online encyclopedia with community-created content. Though Wikipedia has taken some hits about the quality of a few of its entries, the genuine problems are rare. With coverage of nearly every topic under (and beyond) the sun, Wikipedia is one of the first places to turn to when you need to get up to speed fast, on just about any topic you choose.

2. A9.com

Amazon’s search site offers a lot of typical search options, but the one that makes the difference is its “books” search, which accesses the full text of, oh, about a zillion books of every type imaginable. When you’re looking for something obscure, and can’t find it anywhere else, A9.com just may be the place to find it. Google Book Search has a similar search function, but it also has a long ways to go to catch up to Amazon’s deep collection.

3. Internet Archive

The Wayback Machine…what can I say? This is a repository of zillions (I use that number a lot) of sites that are no longer found on the present day internet. Want to see Google’s 1999 beta page?…the Internet Archive is the only place you’re likely to find it. In addition, they have a large collection of public domain movies, audio files, images and other materials I’ve yet to explore.

4. Making of America/University of Michigan Digital Collection

This cumbersome and little known site is one of my favorites, and one of the best history resources on the internet. It is chock full of primary documents from American history. Not only the big ones, like the Constitution and the Federalist Papers, but the everyday materials that reveal so much — popular novels, references, poetry, magazines, textbooks, manuals, diaries, directories, and how-to books of the 18th and 19th century. A rich, rich resource. In addition to American history, the site also has a variety of other collections…everything from Dentistry to British Women Romantic Poets.

5. Melissa Data

Melissa is the queen of the lookups…zip codes, addresses, census statistics, postal routes, place names. I can’t describe it all, so just check it out, and bookmark it.

6. Google News Archive

You know about Google, and you know about Google News. But did you know there is a Google News Archive, that can search newspapers back to the 1700’s. Want to know when “global warming” first became a newsworthy topic? A search of GNA quickly finds an article in the November 6, 1957 issue of The Hammond Times (Indiana) that discusses global warming in a prescient article titled, “Air Pollution — One of Biggest Problems Facing America Today”.

7. USA.gov

The US government pretty much created the internet (it wasn’t all Al Gore’s doing), and has since populated it with well over a zillion sources of useful information. In true bureaucratic fashion though, much of it is hard to find, hard to use, and hard to understand. USA.gov isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s a good effort, and the site has improved quite a bit in recent years, since it’s original introduction as Firstgov.gov. This is a portal to all the government has to offer, including grants.gov, EDGAR company searches at the SEC, patents, NASA, Congressional bills and laws, Census data, small business assistance….and much, much more.

8. ConsumerSearch

If you want to buy a digital camera, you probably know where to go. But if you’re trying to figure out which camera to buy…that’s tougher. There’s so much information out there — some useful, some dubious, most of it outdated — that it’s a bear to wade through it all. Where can you get some reliable, concise information on electronics, mattresses, vacuum cleaners, and other consumer products? ConsumerSearch is just the ticket! It reviews the reviewers, consolidating information from Consumer Reports, Epinions, and scores of other print and internet reviews, and sums it all up in a neat, up-to-date, easy-to-use package.

9. Your Library

If you haven’t paid a visit to your local public library lately, you may be in for a surprise. Most of the nation’s libraries offer numerous online databases that are accessible from home, just by entering your library card number. Without ever leaving my La-Z-Boy, I can hookup to my hometown library and access databases on health, news, business, homework, art and history. Libraries usually carry an assortment of databases from Infotrac, Gale Group, Lexis-Nexis, Oxford, Proquest, Thomson, ABI, and others. So dust off your library card, and check out what’s what in your neighborhood.

10. Dun and Bradstreet Small Business

Full access to D&B will cost you, but if you’re just looking to confirm a business name and address pretty much anywhere in the world (and I’m amazed at how often I’m asked to do just that!), then Dun and Bradstreet’s free lookup is the place to go. Even though the site is called “Small Business”, they list companies of all sizes…last I heard, they had about 50 million businesses listed around the world. Go ahead, search on “Xooxle” and see what you find.

Honorable Mentions:

Ah! If only there were more room in the top ten. Here are some other great resources:

Project Gutenberg for a wordly collection of literature, classic and otherwise

Gary Price’s List of Lists has been around for a while, but is still a tremendous compendium of Top 100-type lists from all walks of life

Domaintools.com is where I turn to for whois information

Yahoo Finance Search is tucked away and hard to find, but a great source for business searching

Bureau van Dijk, a D&B-like service, has a great, free search for businesses around the world

About XooxleAnswers

XooxleAnswers is a professional online research service handling a wide array of topics. Our diverse team of researchers can tackle your projects in business, legal, medical, academic and personal research. XooxleAnswers is headed by David Sarokin, a well-known expert in internet research, and a former researcher with Google Answers. Find out more about how XooxleAnswers can help you with your research needs.