How to Do Research
The writing is in the details. In order to prepare a piece of fiction set in a real world, the author needs a semblance of reality. To make that happen, extensive research is oftentimes necessary. However, not everyone is capable of such feats. It involves much more than just visiting a site and saving the link for future reference or copying and pasting a long block of text into a word processing program. Here are some tips to save time in order to help with detailed research projects:
- Select your topic(s) and
list keywords related to them.
- Ex: Cursed object brings
an ancient Egyptian goddess to life. Keywords: Egypt, tombs, Egyptian
mythology, archaeology, dig sites, curses.
- Search for resources, both
offline and online, to get an overview of the topic.
- Websites, Encyclopedias,
Maps, History Books, Myths and Legends, Archeology Magazines, similar
topics in literature and the media.
- Take notes. Can be created
as complete background information, but later needs to be condensed into
bulleted facts that relate to the specific topic.
- Find experts who can
handle answering questions you can’t find anywhere else or who can fill in
the blanks with their knowledge. Visit forums or ask around. You just may
know someone who can help. For example, let’s say you are writing a
forensic detective novel and need first-hand knowledge of forensic
technology. You may not know someone who does that but perhaps the second
cousin of your best friend’s wife does?
- Only look at information from verified “true” sources. A lot of information circulating is not entirely true. How do you know for sure? Look at WHO wrote it and WHEN it was written. If you are planning a story that takes place in 2012 and find a book written by some unknown author in 1962, take another look. Things may have changed based on what you’re looking up. Does the author CITE any sources or have a degree/well-educated title? Is he/she well respected in his field? For instance, if you are writing the next medical thriller, a great resource would be a doctor who has had reports published in a medical journal on the specific trauma, disease, chemical, etc. you plan to use.