I've been through hundreds of Mi Yodeya questions and answers. I must say I'm impressed. There's just every topic under/over the globe here and I'd like to know how do y'all do it? I'd like to know for my own sake, so I can answer a lot of questions as well. Do y'all just have photographic memories? Have y'all learnt so much and Chazara 40 times? Do y'all have some type of computer programs or websites y'all use? Much appreciated.
The pattern I have noticed consists of 5 sources of information:
- Closed or open library sources. e.g. Sefaria, HebrewBooks.org, Otzer.
- Google searches in Hebrew will often turn up articles.
- Recollection of a discussion from Yeshiva, a Shiur, etc.
- An obscure (or not so obscure) reference that someone actually read and remembered.
- An article from something someone reads regularly and refers back to (Tradition is a common one).
There are also general knowledge, personal experience and opinion/inductive reasoning answers.
I'm sure there are examples of others, but this is what comes to mind.
I learned this rule as a young student: the smart student is not the one who knows everything, it is the one who knows where to find everything.
I later heard this idea from Rav Noah Weinberg ztl. We are supposed to remember Mishnah letter perfect, and today we are not up to it, but we still need to memorize the indexes, so we can find what we need when we need it.
In other words, you need to know what to look for on Google.
Personally, I generally answer two types of questions:
Those that fascinate me. I may then spend hours Googling for the answer using key terms on English and Hebrew. Sefaria also has a nice search system, Torat Emet less so, but their Windows desktop app has powerful search features.