Five Free Online Research Sites (Besides Wikipedia)

Let’s face it, it’s the 21st century and textbooks are annoying. They’re heavy, expensive, and it can take forever to find what you’re looking for. For the student in a hurry, online research is the fastest and easiest way to fill up that research paper. Here are 5 of the most useful (and fun) subject-oriented online research Web sites. Now get going.

SparkNotes.com - Were you assigned some literature that you forgot to read? SparkNotes has a fairly extensive list of the classics, sortable by author or by title, summarized and explained for your convenience. Get plot summaries, character analyses, important quotes, and even study questions, all behind the SparkNotes tab on the upper left. Also hither: Shakespeare translated, history brushed over, and biology compacted, plus some funny stuff and useful study tools.

Physlink.com - Click on Reference for fast science facts, such as air composition or the Greek alphabet. Need more detailed information? Ask an Expert sorts the answers to users’ questions by category, and a short list of essays touches on subjects like how magnets affect the body, and how art and science differ. Still not enough? Directories leads to a list of outside sites such as institutes, colleges and societies, where I’m sure someone can help you.

Megalaw.com - Megalaw is a giant law directory, organized and categorized in many different ways. Law Topic Pages links you to an exhaustive list of individual law categories (thankfully alphabatized in columns rather than annoying rows - grrr), where thousands of specifically targeted law-related sites are available to address your topic of concern. And as any law site should, this one has a good-sized bank of lawyer jokes.

LawGuru.com - Alright, this makes it six Web sites, but filling a need unaddressed by Megalaw, LawGuru contains Ask a Legal Question, with detailed answers to real users’ legal queries.

Healthline.com - Need to know the correct dosage of a prescription drug, or the symptoms of acute silicosis? Healthline offers drug searches by name or by the pill’s appearance, as well as a bevy of information on diseases, symptoms and treatments, including nasty, scary photos. Health expert blogs provide some intriguing (and occasionally startling) first-hand accounts, and the Tools section has some fun, useful stuff with which to quiz, test and calculate your way to a better grade.

The Internet Public Library - If your topic does not fall under any of the sites listed above, this site, though not as fun as some, is a portal to many other informational sites on a variety of subjects. The reference setion contains almanacs and thesauri, the reading room links to sites featuring books and periodicals, and if you need help finding something, the site’s Searching Tools include real Internet librarians. Just remember to use inside voices.

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