Google has made the act of researching material for journalism so much simpler. The same can be said for fiction, too, although you might approach that in a different way. But while a search engine is useful, it’s not ideal for daily, regular searches on similar topics.

What you need is an app or service that does your research for you.

I have a couple that I use, although there are many out there. Most were spun off from the discontinued Google Home, which would offer a screen worth of tailored news based on your favoured keywords. Indeed, this is still possible in email form thanks to Google Alerts, which are simple to configure.

But for something more real-time, two tools in particular stand out. I use both, and would encourage anyone to try at least one of them.

  1. Feedly — this is a free app that you can use to search for particular content keywords, and have relevant news pushed into your phone or tablet. Want to read about nothing else but Game of Thrones’ star Kit Harrington? Just program that keyword into Feedly and wait while new articles are found. If they’ve been written, Feedly will display them. Content in Feedly can be shared in the usual way (Instapaper or a notekeeping app like Google Keep are ideal for this).
  2. Google Now — Working in a similar way to Feedly, Google Now will not only find stuff that you have specified an interest in, it will also display new content based on your previous searches. This is a slightly more haphazard approach — potential for mixing personal interests with work-based research, and the distractions that can bring — but on the whole it is useful. Also, if your phone or tablet has it installed, you can access it quickly by swiping right.

Now, there are many alternatives, but if your writing relies on repeated research of similar topics (for instance, in my technology writing, I regularly cover gaming or Linux topics) then these apps should be checked out.

For background research for fiction, these tools probably won’t help you too much. However, don’t rule them out entirely.