Stockholm Public Library

Where to find the best answers online

The internet is the best resource for sharing and finding knowledge the world has ever seen, but sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start.

It was only 20 years ago that the web was small enough that directories like Yahoo ruled the roost and most websites could be easily categorised and accessed within a few clicks. As the web exploded, with everyone and their dog building websites and sharing ideas, we started to need smart search engines to help us find our way.

Now, with over a billion websites online – where do you start when looking for information?

For the lazy, a number of services like Ask Bongo have sprung up over the years that let you text in a question to a premium rate phone number, and they will do the leg work for you – but for those with a more curious mind – here’s our route to finding the right information.

1. Wikipedia

It may be the obvious choice, but Wikipedia is a fantastic resource that too many people still belittle. Wikipedia is a great starting point for any journey of knowledge exploration, and is used by everyone from your Mum to PHD candidates as the starting point in their search – it gives a useful basic overview of almost every topic in existence, and then gives you references to explore further.

BBC News

The BBC is one of the best regarded news organisations in the world and their website is excellent (and advertisement free for those of us in the UK). The site itself has been going since 1997, so if the topic you are researching was news within the last twenty years then in all likelihood they will have covered it, impartially and in reasonable depth.

Newspaper archives

The BBC’s archives only go back 20 years, but newspapers have been around for more than a century, and most national titles will let you access their archives for a fee. Always check the biases of any newspaper you read, but in terms of breadth of information on topics from the last 100 years then the archives are a great resource.

Ask on Reddit or Quora

The internet is a social medium, and sites such as Quora and Reddit are great when you don’t know where to turn. The sites are large enough that people with relevant expertise are almost certainly members, along with quite a few celebrities and other influential people – so find the right section or subreddit and ask away.

As Caroline Thompson, business development manager at Ask Bongo says, sometimes it might be nice to “just text this question to a history prof or some omniscient monkey”, but at other times you want to explore with a bit more depth yourself.

Photograph by Samantha Marx