Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Research Skills and Writing

Learning how to Research
Most forms of writing require research. Factual articles need valid references and novels need believable backgrounds and locations. While writers are often advised to write what they know, there is a limit to this and there are many ways to gain the knowledge required.

Why is Research Needed
Research is used for factual articles, news articles and factual and fiction books. While the writer may have personal experience, this is seldom enough to produce a well-written piece for public benefit.

Best-selling Authors Conduct Research
If you look in the first few pages of a novel, you will often see a list of thanks from the author to people who helped with information on certain topics. Before writing House Rules, Jodi Picoult spent time with parents who have children with Asperger’s Syndrome. Michael Palmer wrote fascinating scenes about an Indian town named Amritsar in The Fifth Vial. He states on his website that he has never been there but wrote a convincing scene by researching the area.

Research Topics that Interest you
To begin with, research topics that appeal to you and have larger volumes of information available. For example, it would be easier to gather information about bipolar disorder than a condition called narcissistic personality disorder. Start off with easier subjects and as your research skills grow, venture into more difficult areas.

How do I Research a Subject
There are several ways to do this depending on the topic:
· Libraries have vast amounts of information available. Find out how to use their computer system to pinpoint what you need. It is best to stick with work that has a publication date later than 2000
· The internet is an obvious source but make sure the sites you use are professional and trustworthy. For example, Wikipedia contains some interesting stuff but is not accepted as a valid reference
· Interview people who have experience in the area. This can be anyone from university professors to people in wheelchairs. Don’t be afraid to ask them as most people will gladly share their expertise or experience in an area

Research adds depth and authenticity to any piece of writing and the learning process can be great fun, depending on the subject. The next time you write a piece that requires some research, make a list of what you need to know and then get to work. The standard of your writing can only benefit from appropriate research.


Debbie Roome works as a freelance writer from her home in New Zealand. Visit her at Debbie Roome or read some of her work at Suite 101 , Take Root and Write and Faithwriters.


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