Research is the heart and soul of any book, and that’s as true of fiction as it is of nonfiction. Learning how to conduct sound and effective research is an essential part of the writing process, and it’s also critical as you blog your book.
1. Learn Research Design
Research design is an academic subject that helps researchers plan their methodology and practice. In the academic world, researchers must prove their work is valid before it receives funding approval. Much of research design carries over to non-academic writing.
For you, it’s not a question of following what you think is interesting, which may or may not pan out, but setting up a concrete plan. A structured research plan keeps you on track and prevents you from wasting time. That doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from your plan since you never know when an idea will pop into your head. It does mean that you’re not sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike, and you have specific work to complete every day.
2. Time is Money – Consider Outsourcing
Good research takes time, but your time is limited. Few people can devote all of their time to research, because life, in the form of work, family and other endeavors, gets in the way. Besides, if you only research, you’ll never get around to writing your book.
Additionally, consider “outsourcing” some research by hiring someone to do this work for you. Virtual assistants often do this work, or go to Upwork.com, or a similar service, and search for “researcher.” You’ll find many qualified candidates to do the work for you at a meager price.
You likely conduct most of your research online or by visiting a library. If time is an issue, consider contacting professionals who have already undertaken and shared the research. For example, you can contact the authors of journal articles. If the article doesn’t include the contact information, find the person’s email address. This doesn’t take much effort if they work in academia or another type of research institution. Cut to the chase in an email by asking them a question relating to their particular expertise. If you’re not sure where to go in your research, their opinion can guide you. Acknowledge their help in the book or ask if you can quote them directly.
3. Save Every Scrap of Research Material
If you’re a writer, you’re almost certainly an avid reader. Your research consists of a lot of reading on various subjects related to the topics covered in your book. Often, the sheer volume is overwhelming, but you never know when you’ll come across that fascinating fact or rewarding anecdote that can alter the direction of your book.
Save your digital material on a site such as Pinboard, Evernote, or one of the many free services available. Use as many tags as appropriate for each item, because this will help you find the research later. Keeping your research in a virtual or cloud setting keeps it safe and handy.
If physical research material is taking over your house or office, there’s no need to get rid of it all. However, stuffing papers into boxes and leaving them in the basement isn’t a suitable option. When you need specific materials, you must be able to find them. Organize your system in the way that works best for you, whether that’s a formal filing system or a series of folders separated by topic.
4. Filter Your Research
You’ve spent hundreds, maybe thousands, of hours on research. Even if you’re updating War and Peace—can you imagine Tolstoy blogging his masterpiece?—or Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers, you aren’t going to include every fact and figure you find, no matter how intriguing.
Whatever you’re writing, you want to keep the reader interested not induce sleep through the constant inclusion of facts. If there’s a piece of information you’re just dying to share with readers, but it doesn’t really fit into your book, introduce it separately in your blog as an interesting tidbit or offer additional facts as an addendum to your book or as a special package for your email subscribers. The latter is an excellent way to build and promote your email list.
5. Don’t Interrupt Writing for Research
You’re on a writing tear. The words are pouring out of you, flowing smoothly, until you hit a bump. You need to verify some information. That’s fine but check it later, not now.
Later, take a break and put your research hat on rather than your author’s cap. That’s when you can find the answer to your question—without losing the train of thought that made your writing so productive. Unless the fact is so vital to your book that you can’t continue without it, just note on the manuscript that you need to look something up and stay on your writing jag.
Do you have research tips to add to this list? Share them in a comment below.
About the Author
Jane Meggitt is a former reporter for a major New Jersey newspaper chain. Her work has appeared in dozens of publications, including USA Today, Financial Advisor, LegalZoom, Zack’s and The Motley Fool.You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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