It’s frustrating to hear people say “I researched that” when they simply mean “I looked it up on Google.”
I believe we have diluted the word ‘research’ by equating it to a one-click action. I’m not trying to say that every topic under the sun needs a deep dive. I’m not suggesting that we turn fact-finding into some geeky task. I’m suggesting that we ought to train our brains to think that knowing something is contextual. There is no pat answer.
Google must know this. It stepped up to the late with the release of what it calls the ‘knowledge graph.’ (I am not a big fan of the term. It has a hint of Zuckerberg;s ‘social graph,’ doesn’t it?) Nevertheless, if you haven’t noticed the contextual info showing up on Google, take a look.
If you’re into the deep dive thing, Google does have a few tricks it tends to hide from the general public. But there are more. Try these:
Google Scholar - http://scholar.google.com
It provides pages from books, PDFs, scholarly literature, peer-reviewed journals, material found via Google books, and even court opinions. Duke University encourages students to use it!
Patent Search - http://www.google.com/patents?hl=en
Lexis Nexis - http://www.lexisnexis.com
This is not a free service, but it combines information from legal, academic, and corporate knowledge databases.