The internet is a big place. There is no way we could cover it all. Instead we'll go through some specific examples of how to find what you're looking for, and cover some great resources that have worked for me, in very specific situations.
Yesterday we discussed Wikipedia, and it's a great starting point, but I strongly encourage you to dig deeper into the web to find the detailed information you are looking for. One way to get there, as we covered, is through the References and External links at the bottom of a Wikipedia article.
Another is a Google search. Or I suppose you could use Bing, but no matter how many
There are also some other basic alternative search engines, like Yahoo, Dogpile, Yippy, and one of my favorites, because it's so old: Metacrawler. I also like that it sounds like a Lovecraftian horror, but that's another post as well.
Then you have search engines that are intended for a specific use, and will only return specific results. IMDB is essentially an engine that searches only information in it's own database, which relates to the entertainment industry, and is an incredible wealth of knowledge regarding, films, television shows, actors, production crews, video games and fictional characters. Technorati is similar, but only searches blogs. USA.gov is for publicly searchable government records. There are several other examples, but I'm sure you're all familiar with them.
At this point is is difficult to get much more specific. After the basics everything is going to depend on what it is you're looking for, and how much information you need about it. Let's use some examples from my own novel, WARRIOR-MONKS.
The story is set, mostly, in the panhandle of Northern Idaho. For specific reasons that we won't get into here, nature plays an important role. I've been to the place I'm describing, so of course that helps (and is part of level four) but it's been years, and there is no way I could remember everything I saw there anyway. So I had to research the land, focusing on the flora and fauna. After extensive perusing of the internet, I found this website, the Idaho Native Plant Society. The wealth of information and depth of detail they have regarding the local flora is ... well, it's out of control. I'm sure there are many other great resources for this topic out there as well. For animals it's a bit tougher, but the University of Idaho Extension site has some good resources.
For one more quick specific example, something that features heavily in my book is the Japanese martial art Aikido. I have never studied it myself, except for reading about it extensively, so I had to research it. I won't go into every resource I looked at here today, but one thing that was of great use during fight scenes was the website Expert Village. As of the writing of this post Expert Village has apparently been acquired by ehow.com. There is also an Expert Village Youtube channel. Both of these sources can be used to find videos related to very specific topics. For example this basic wrist grab technique instructional video is very useful:
You can go much deeper and get far more specific than this simple example, trust me.
So that's it for today. One more real world example I want to give you about using the internet for research is just to point you to my friend Lydia Kang's post from yesterday. Her Medical Monday posts are always awesome, but yesterday's featured an excellent set of examples of the websites she used to find her information. You can read it here. Scroll to the bottom for her sources. Lydia is also a doctor, but it still helps to find more sources than your own knowledge.