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Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:30 am
by The Logic of Scientific Disco
Since discussion about tournaments has died down for the moment and a lot of packet-writing seems to be either on the horizon or happening right now (Penn Bowl, Cardinal Classic, ACF Winter and Regionals, etc.), I thought now would be a good time to post a thread about neat places to find material both relevant to question-writing and good for studying or reading. Off the top of my head, I can only think of a few canonical places to find question material that have gained traction (Masterplots, Grove, and Britannica spring to mind), and I thought it would be cool to expand that list.

So: here is your opportunity to share places you love to find interesting stuff to put in questions, or interesting stuff to remember for tournaments. Hopefully, given the diversity of interests of people on the board, we can cover lots of subject areas.

I'll start off by saying that my favorite source for information about composers is Harold Schonberg's Lives of the Great Composers, which I've read cover-to-cover maybe three times. It's that good. It doesn't go into the depth you'd like for specific works, but as a jumping-off point for music studying and for question ideas, it's awesome. For more detail, check out Michael Steinberg's The Symphony and The Concerto, or for something you can find sans library, check out Famous Composers and their Works on Google Books.

I'm also a fan of the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which has long, detailed entries on lots of important philosophers. I'm just starting to read it in any depth, but I like what I see so far.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:46 am
by Mike Bentley
For history topics, you can usually find pretty in-depth stuff on the subjects you need by searching Google Books. There's a lot of public domain history stuff which is decent, and even better is previews of recent accounts/biographies which are often accessible.

Artstor is a good resource when writing painting tossups, especially if you're looking to write common link art tossups. Plus, it's neat to see some of the lesser known works of various artists in pretty high quality.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:48 am
by Important Bird Area
Good idea for a thread. I like the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (subscription required, but most large university libraries will subscribe) and Strayer's Dictionary of the Middle Ages.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 1:51 am
by magin
I've found Luminarium (http://www.luminarium.org/), the psychology wiki (http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page), Schools of Thought (http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/thought.htm), and the Liberty Library of Constitutional Classics (http://www.constitution.org/liberlib.htm) to be fine sources.

Don't forget the Thomas Love Peacock society (http://www.thomaslovepeacock.net/), either.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:00 am
by tiwonge
Mathworld and the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive?

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/
http://www-history.mcs.st-and.ac.uk/

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:08 am
by Theory Of The Leisure Flask
You need an educational license to access the full encyclopedia, but if your school has one, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com (formerly known as the Grove Music Encyclopedia) is THE source for everything music.

They have a companion volume for visual art that I have yet to explore, but seems very promising.

Also, I usually go to http://plato.stanford.edu/ for most of my philosophy needs. (EDIT: not sure how I missed Chris already mention this above. Well, I'll second its usefulness...)

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:12 am
by Cheynem
I like Google Books. I've also gotten into the habit of writing stuff based on the monographs I'm reading in class (obviously works better for history questions and if you're using quality monographs instead of just general survey textbooks).

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:20 am
by dtaylor4
I only have access to it through the University, but Magill OnLiterature is the primary resource I use for literature questions.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 2:35 am
by millionwaves
When writing philosophy and social science questions on people, I often find it helpful to check and see if there's a profile on the thinker in this directory:

http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/

The ones that I've used have been great: there's plenty of contextual biographical information, full bibliographies, and often links to primary resources which you can use to write questions from.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 9:20 am
by pray for elves
If you actually want to appreciate a piece as you write about classical music, most schools have subscriptions to Naxos, which has streaming recordings of almost any piece of classical music you can imagine.

EDIT: For reference you can find a complete listing of recordings in their catalog here (warning: pdf link).

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 11:56 am
by grapesmoker
For mythology and religion, the Berkeley Sacred Texts archive contains lots of primary material from various religious traditions.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 3:02 pm
by No Rules Westbrook
These are all fine sources, I'll add marxists.org as a readily available site for lots of primary works.

If all else fails and you seek to write a question from online sources, I suggest just doing a Google search where you search for not only the subject you're writing on but also add a handful of clues you know to be good. That way, you increase your chances of finding a comprehensive and trustworthy page, though you'll want to cross-reference of course. You can also restrict your search to a .edu domain, and sometimes that yields decent results.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Fri Dec 12, 2008 4:05 pm
by at your pleasure
For fine arts, I like the Web Gallery of Art. It has good profiles of pretty much anyone you would want to write a question on and a lot of quality reproductions.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 2:22 am
by SnookerUSF
This is a fantastic idea for a thread, could it be made a sticky post thing somewhere, so people have it at their disposal?

Also, I was wondering if people had good places to go for SCIENCE! topics, I mean I always find myself drawing from very disparate sources, either obscure papers on ScienceDirect or IngentaConnect or basic encyclopedia sources, which make for awkwardly disjointed tossups.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 2:44 am
by Mechanical Beasts
SnookerUSF wrote:This is a fantastic idea for a thread, could it be made a sticky post thing somewhere, so people have it at their disposal?

Also, I was wondering if people had good places to go for SCIENCE! topics, I mean I always find myself drawing from very disparate sources, either obscure papers on ScienceDirect or IngentaConnect or basic encyclopedia sources, which make for awkwardly disjointed tossups.

I think Westbrook's advice is pretty good here. While you might not get the most in-depth treatment of a science topic if you just google it, you'll get something deeper if you google a common middle clue for it. (In all likelihood, you'll find a specialized encyclopedia-type resource or maybe some lecture notes.) Also, JACS (at least; probably many other science journals) seems to require authors to contain enough background information that you don't have to jump from an obscure result about the genes that code for apoptosis-related proteins in newts straight to "buzz when I say Bax, guys." You'll have a smooth transition; though it'll still be framed a little bit in the context of that specific result, and you'll need to check out a few more sources to get a more complete picture.

That said, the best source is external knowledge. Give me a perfect music resource (I've used that Oxford, and I love it to death) and I'll still write a pretty crappy music tossup, since I don't have a handle on clue order or notability or what the words I use mean (at least not in the deep way actual music people do). That's the real utility of an extremely available resource like Wikipedia: if you know nothing at all about quicksort, you'll learn something about quicksort and you'll get the bonus of a few sweet GIFs.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:10 pm
by Lapego1
SnookerUSF wrote:This is a fantastic idea for a thread, could it be made a sticky post thing somewhere, so people have it at their disposal?

Also, I was wondering if people had good places to go for SCIENCE! topics, I mean I always find myself drawing from very disparate sources, either obscure papers on ScienceDirect or IngentaConnect or basic encyclopedia sources, which make for awkwardly disjointed tossups.

For organic, I find www.organic-chemistry.org pretty helpful. It is searchable and has recent literature on most important reactions.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:32 pm
by No Rules Westbrook
And, a big part of running a successful general Google search is being able to escape the morass of Wikipedia clone sites out there. If you can add enough info to your search to do that, you can probably get what you want.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 1:34 pm
by Mechanical Beasts
No Rules Westbrook wrote:And, a big part of running a successful general Google search is being able to escape the morass of Wikipedia clone sites out there. If you can add enough info to your search to do that, you can probably get what you want.

This is especially frustrating, and valuable, when Wikipedia actually contains a fact that, if sourced (which it of course isn't) could make for a clue that's never come up before. Trying to find it in another source is part of the long haul that usually leads you to "it's something the editor made up" but occasionally it'll bring you to a very, very good legitimate source.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 6:47 pm
by ezubaric
I also like JSTOR:

http://www.jstor.org
(most unis have subscriptions)

And just doing google searches of the form "stuff site:edu", which often turns up course notes and whatnot.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Sat Dec 13, 2008 8:12 pm
by theMoMA
I usually like to find overviews of stuff on Britannica, or yes, even Wikipedia, and note what seems to be important and interesting. Then I take that and try to corroborate with legitimate primary-source information, scholarly articles, etc. This is a great way to find out even better details about the stuff that's important. I think that a lot of times, people are so worried about writing from Wiki or such sources that they write questions from the top down; that is, they read one study on PubMed and think that they can use stuff from it as a clue. I think that clues should come from the bottom up. Put another way, clues should be drawn from the pool of things that people are could possibly know. A good way to try to adhere to this is to draw from a condensed overview of your question topic (even if it is Wikipedia) and build up from that.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2008 7:44 pm
by First Chairman
Making this post stick.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 2:07 am
by Gautam
I'm surprised that so few have mentioned textbooks as a source of quality material, especially for science. I ended up using a fair number of textbooks in our libraries to get good clues for a large portion of the science at Minnesota Open.

The best thing I like about textbooks is that there are so many of them; if you find one to be too dense, there will always be another one at your disposal which will be easier to read. Furthermore, a lot of them are written so that if you have a good understanding of the basic concepts in the field, you can pretty much understand the concepts in a more specific sub-field.

EDIT: clarity

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:09 am
by grapesmoker
Sites like MIT's OpenCourseWare are also useful for science. Also, often times, professors will post their notes online and that's a good place to get some interesting clues.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:54 am
by BuzzerZen
There is a reference work called simply Encyclopedia of Religion that I have found extremely useful for myth and religion questions that you may have access to electronically via your library. It's quite excellent.

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:51 pm
by Mike Bentley
Speaking of religion, the Catholic Encyclopedia is a pretty good source for Christian related topics. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/

Re: Alternatives to Wikipedia: where to find good material

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:54 pm
by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN)
The only problem is that some of the things like sacrament names (extreme unction in particular) are from the early 1900s and have changed since then, but overall yeah its a good site.