Research FAQ

Who runs Historicalfic, and what are your professional credentials and background?

My name is Dusk Peterson. See my CV for my credentials and background.

What historical research services do you offer?

Five types of service, depending on your needs.

  • Digital research. Have a research question that's puzzling you? My digital research is done through web searches, through searches at dozens of subscription databases, and through full-text searches and downloads of e-books at a subscription electronic library – not open to the general public – that has half a million volumes from nearly a thousand publishers, including many academic presses.
  • Links to electronic resources. If you're planning to do your own research from online resources, you'll need a list of those resources. Seeking out websites may seem like the easiest part of historical research, but the Internet is like an iceberg: most of it is hidden. The Internet is filled with historical riches that are hidden in "the invisible web": web pages that can't be reached by search engines such as Google. It has been estimated that more than 95% of the web is "invisible." The invisible web includes large portions of websites that are devoted to historical topics. You have to actually visit those sites and use their internal search engines to locate the pages within them. For a historical researcher, this means knowing the location of websites that are likely to have information that the historical genre writer needs. Centering my search on your specific topic, I can provide you with links to online historical resources you can use to recreate life in the era you're writing about.
  • Lists of books and articles. Whether you're researching from home or in a library, you'll want to know what books and articles are available on your topic. You can try to find online booklists, but those often won't tell you whether the book or article contains information on your chosen topic. I'll compile a custom-made bibliography for you; then I'll use electronic libraries and subscription databases to preview as many of those books and articles as possible, so that I can tell you how much information those books and articles have on your topic. Rather than waste dozens of hours searching for relevant books and articles, you can go straight to sources with the information you need. At your request, I will even link to online previews and information that will help you track down the books and articles at libraries.
  • Lists of research locations. If you plan to do offline research near home or on a research trip, I can put together a custom-made list of libraries, archives, museums, historical sites, and other offline resources you may wish to consult.
  • Training in online historical research. Prefer to do your own research? If you don't have much experience in online historical research, I can show you how to do it for yourself next time by recording the actual steps I take to locate information for you, including listing any online locations I visit that fail to yield results. Recording research steps takes me extra time, so I don't automatically include this information in my reports. But if you would find such a record of research steps to be helpful, I'll be glad to include the steps in my report and to answer any questions you have about the types of research I do.

What will the research report look like?

Here are some sample reports.

Which historical genres do you do research for?

I'll consider doing research for any type of story that has a historical American setting, aimed at any audience and of any length.

What if I'm writing a story that doesn't belong to a historical genre, but the story has historical elements in it?

That's fine; go ahead and let me know about your project.

Do you do research for audio-visual media, such as plays, podcasts, and films?

I'm happy to work with people who create audio-visual media.

Do you ever work with nonfiction writers?

Yes, I have. Feel free to send me information on your project.

Payment and Legal Issues FAQ

How much does it cost to hire you?

That depends on how much research you ask me to do; we'll discuss that before you send payment. Whether your project is simple or complex, I work within your budget. In most cases, a research project will cost about as much as hiring a professional editor. For example, the first sample report at this website, which represents a quick research task, would cost $120, while the second sample report would cost $600.

If you're still uncertain whether you want to pay for professional research, you can look over my sample reports beforehand to see what sort of work I do, and you can ask me any questions you need answered to decide whether I'm the right researcher for you. You're the one who decides how many hours you want me to spend working for you, so you can test me with a short project first, if you like.

Payments are retainers – that is, you prepay for however many hours you want me to spend on your project. This allows me to set aside a block of time to work on your project, without interruption from other writers who wish to hire me. For projects lasting longer than twenty hours, you may prepay at twenty-hour intervals, if you wish, and I'll send whatever type of periodic report that you would like to receive.

When I finish the research, I'll send you an electronic timesheet of my hours, along with my report and an overview of my findings.

What does the cost cover?

Any time I spend doing work on your behalf. Usually, this means researching, preparing reports for you, reading through any previous research you have sent me, and exchanging correspondence with you. I will request beforehand your approval for any other tasks and will list all the tasks on my timesheet.

What don't you charge for?

I don't charge for time spent reading and replying to your e-mails before you make the initial payment or after I send the final report.

There is normally no charge for expenses. I absorb the cost of all the dozens of subscription databases and subscription e-libraries that I ordinarily visit. If you should make a special request for me to visit a subscription site that I don't ordinarily visit, we will negotiate expenses beforehand.

How do I pay?

Payment is by PayPal, by credit card, by debit card, or by electronic check (that is, by you transferring money directly from your bank account). I will send you an invoice beforehand with a link to a web page you can visit in order to make your payment.

Do you issue refunds?

In the unlikely event that there is work time left over that you've already paid for, I'll send you a refund for that unused time. For example, if you pay for ten hours of work, and I spend eight hours working for you, I'll refund you for the two unused hours.

Will I be signing a contract with you?

Yes, you will, to protect both of us from misunderstandings. The contract is in plain English, covering many of the same topics as the FAQ on this page.

You won't have to print out the contract and mail it through the post office. I'll send you a version of the contract that you can sign online, either on a desk computer or on a mobile device like a smartphone.

If you have any concerns about the wording of the contract, feel free to let me know.

Will you keep my information private?

Unless compelled or otherwise ordered to disclose by force of law, I'll hold confidential any information you provide that is marked "confidential" and that is not already a matter of public record or public knowledge.

However, if you give me permission, I'll publicize you, your website, and your project. I won't talk about anything you marked "confidential."

The actual resources that I seek out for you are public. Any writer can use the information contained in the resources, including me.

Can you guarantee that you'll find the answers to my research questions?

I'm afraid not. It's the nature of the beast that historical research sometimes leads nowhere. The answers may not have survived the ravages of time. The answers may be located in places I can't access. I may run out of time to find the answers. Or I may simply miss the answers; the world of information is a big, big place.

What I can say is that I'll be able to give you information and sources that are related to your original query or queries. You can use that to help recreate life in the setting you're writing about.

Can you guarantee that the sources you find are accurate and authentic?

Not even the Library of Congress can guarantee that. If you'll visit their Flickr account, you'll see visitors correcting errors in the Library of Congress's captions for historical images. These are errors that have existed in the Library of Congress's records for decades, undetected. And every now and then, an inauthentic work will slip by the eagle eyes of librarians, archivists, and curators.

I do my best to locate sources from well-respected historical organizations, but if the topic is little-known, sometimes the sources I seek will only be available on the websites of enthusiasts who don't have formal education in historical methods. When I send my report, I'll include tips that will help you assess the relative reliability of the individuals and groups that have collected the information I point you to. You can use those tips to help evaluate the sources.

In addition, there are plenty of books and websites that deal with the topic of historical evaluation. You can ask your local librarian for books that assist students in interpreting historical sources. You might also want to read these online guides:

You can find many more links on historical research and historical genres at Historicalfic's Twitter account, @historicalnovel.

May I publish or pass on to other people what you send me?

I own the copyright on my report, though not the copyright on the sources I link to or quote from. You're welcome to make any use of the report that you like, provided that you include the report's copyright paragraph. (If you're quoting briefly from the report, just link to and give me credit for the report.)

The information contained within the source material I link to or quote from is free for anyone to use. However, the source material itself may be protected by copyright.

Copyright status can be a difficult matter to assess. You may need to consult a lawyer or write to the publisher or creator of the source. If your work is accepted for publication, your publisher may be willing to help you obtain permissions to republish material.

Here are some online resources on copyright and related topics:

I need more information.

If you still have any questions after reading this FAQ, feel free to e-mail me. I look forward to hearing from you.