Researching is an essential tool for any writer who wishes to explore the art of writing creative non-fiction. Both professional and budding writers have been motivated by the $100,000 Nine Dots Prize and Chicken Soup For The Soul. Writing non-fiction books has never been more lucrative than it is today.
However, the ability to cut through the chatter, find the story, and verify your facts is vital for producing reliable, accurate pieces – but it’s rarely an ability that comes to you naturally.
This is understandable, given that writers want to write. They want to be able to sit at a keyboard and know precisely what to say, the words flowing smoothly, and the story forming before their eyes. Research has a tendency to interrupt the writing process, as you have to pause every few moments to verify the facts – which is, in and of itself, easier said than done, as we’ll discuss in more detail soon.
If you want to improve your researching skills, or just make the entire process as simple as possible, the following tips are well worth keeping in mind…
#1 – Corroborate everything
It is a sad truth that, in the modern world, facts are no longer as concrete as they used to be; some people have even gone as far as to describe modern society as “post-factual”, and that we are living in the “fake news” era. This is an obvious complication when you’re looking to research, and the chances are that you will find some contradictions over the course of writing a single piece.
So, how do you decide which one is telling the truth? Look to corroborate any information you discover. If you have one source saying one thing, and nine sources saying the exact opposite, then the majority verdict is the one you are most likely to be able to trust.
#2 – Go local
Major, global news networks are usually a reliable source of information, but they do suffer from a lack of “insider” knowledge. It’s often preferable to look for local sources, with a specific understanding of a particular country or city, to find detailed information on a specific subject; sources like theSouthAfrica will always have a better grip on stories about South Africa than an American source, and the same is true in reverse.
#3 – Go niche
If you are writing about a niche topic, then a good rule of thumb is to look for niche research too. Journalists cover a range of different stories well, but lack of time and expertise can lead to errors in their work. So, for example, if you were writing an article about particle physics, you’d give more weight to information provided by Home.CERN than you would to BBC.com– because CERN are the experts in that specific niche.
#4 – Research first
While you will need to research throughout the writing of a piece, the bulk of the researching work should take place at the start. This technique ensures that the facts shape the piece you are writing right from the start, which helps to produce a more reliable finished work. It’s also worth noting that you’ll save time too, as you won’t have to rewrite large sections of a piece to make corrections to something you have already written, but then discovered is inaccurate.
Hopefully, the tips above will help to simplify, and strengthen, your researching process in future – good luck!
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