Research has become easier with the Internet. This is probably akin to saying “technology has progressed immensely since the dawn of civilization.”

Research has become easier with the Internet.

This is probably akin to saying “technology has progressed immensely since the dawn of civilization.”

Maybe so, but it doesn’t make either statement any less true. Nor any less false.

There are pitfalls to all technology. Take the convenience of cell phones, for example. This technology has taken the phone off the wall, off the hook and out into the world. And you don’t have to memorize numbers.

The pitfall? The same thing.

“What’s Jon’s number?”

“I don’t know. But I have it saved in my phone.”

“Where’s your phone?”

“Jon has it.”

And so it is for Internet research. I know this for a fact because I checked Pitfalls.com, and it said so.

On a Web site called bookrags.com, there’s a link to ask.com. It includes eight convenient little buttons listed as “Top Searches.” A recent one I saw included:

Earthquake
Jimmy Fallon
Brangelina
Sarah Jessica Parker
Hannah Montana
Armed Forces
Summer Jobs
Harrison Ford

This came in handy. I needed to find out about whether Hannah Montana would prefer a stint in the armed forces instead of a summer job with Sarah Jessica Parker and Jimmy Fallon, studying the effect of earthquakes on Harrison Ford.

What a time-saver!

Bookrag also has “popular research topics,” namely, American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Blade Runner, The Middle East, fashion, building collapses, obesity, werewolves, adoption and acid rain.

This, too, was a big help. I adopted an obese werewolf a few years ago, and he recently became obsessed with Middle East fashion. Then, the building collapsed.

Anything is possible, if not capable. I typed Hannah Montana Werewolf American Civil War” and got “An American Werewolf in Montana.”

Didn’t even know they made another sequel. You learn something new all the time.

As much as this quick-reference stuff can save time, it can also spiral out of control. It’s so easy to get sidetracked. Last week, I started out researching Shaquille O’Neal and ended up reading about Eugene O’Neil.

So it’s easy to be led on a wild goose chase — especially if you’re doing research on wild geese.

Sometimes, decisions are required. You must follow a link one place or another. It’s known as the Yellow Brick Road Scarecrow Effect.

That in itself became self-referential. I searched for “Scarecrow” and got “Oz,” “John Cougar Mellencamp” and “Scarecrow and Mrs. King.”

I call this the “splinter effect.”

Eventually, I could really make this work to my advantage. My dream is to feed random words into a computer algorithm and have a column automatically created. It’s much the same thing I do now, except it would be done faster and with even less effort.

That’d give me more time to do research.

Dennis Volkert is features editor at the Journal. E-mail him at volkert@sturgisjournal.com.