We've all had the experience of trying to recall something -- a name, picture or old book. Whether it's in the back of our mind or on the tip of our tongue, it's maddening trying to make the mental connection to free those memories.
Here are some general strategies to use, regardless of what you are trying to recollect.
First, gather what you do know. What distinctive words can you recall -- a character's name, a location, unusual words or a phrase? What descriptive words allow you to explain an image? What details of a person's life can you recall, such as hometown, school or maiden name? Entered into a search engine, these key words often will yield an answer.
Second, use the power of crowdsourcing. In other words, ask around. Using the details you know, start with your friends. Then, contact specific people who might know -- for a title or poem, ask a librarian; for a person, call a school; for a song, ask a radio station to check its playlist. Forum and discussion groups that work together to answer questions, such as categories on Amazon's Askville.com, are online.
Different needs call for different helps. Here are some online tools for common head-scratchers:
What was that book? The Library of Congress has a page devoted to this topic (tinyurl.com/LOC-books). Another site is Abebooks.com, using the advanced search option that can include keywords and a range of publishing dates. And LibraryThing.com (www.tinyurl.com/LT-frequentlysought) has a list of frequently sought stories.
What was that movie/TV show? The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) has an enormous database of titles, episodes and people. Another site is the Complete Index to World Film (citwf.com). A forum is at whatwasthatfilm.livejournal.com.
What was that song? Musicpedia.org offers a range of identifying helps, including whistling, tapping or playing the tune on a virtual keyboard. SongTapper (bored.com/songtapper) also identifies songs by tapping the rhythm.
Sites and smartphone apps at Shazam.com, SoundHound.com, Midomi.com and Tunatic (wildbits.com) allow you to find a tune by humming, or holding the phone to a radio or computer. If you know the words, use a lyric finder. Several are reviewed at tinyurl.com/finding-lyrics.
ScreenTunes.com lets you enter the name of a song or lyrics to identify movies or TV episodes in which it appeared. The instrumental tab at tunecaster.com allows you to track down top 20 songs with no words.
Where in the Bible is...? Two helps for verses, keywords or subject are at biblegateway.com/help/tutorial and bibleresources.bible.com. YouVersion.com has Scripture helps and links to many Bible smartphone apps.
Who said that? Use the Find Quotes link at Quotes and Sayings (quotesandsayings.com).
What was that picture? Google, Bing and Yahoo have image search by word or phrase. For an existing picture, labs.ideeinc.com has image tools, including the reverse image search TinEye.com. And in addition to Googles's own reverse image search, the Google Goggles app (google.com/mobile/goggles) searches the Web, identifies images and locations using smartphones. Unfortunately, some images still don't work well, including faces , animals and food.
In 2004, Newsweek cited a marketing study that reported people spend an average of 55 minutes daily looking for things we know but can't find. Use these and other tools to spend more time enjoying other activities!