Having looked at a lot of writerly websites, a lot of authors share their writing tips, which can be amazingly helpful, but one thing I noticed was that a lot of them mention research but don’t necessarily share tips on this aspect of their writing.
Who am I to help, you might ask? It has been a while since I wrote and researched academically for my undergraduate and Masters degrees, but there are some skills you learn along the way that don’t really leave you. With that in mind, I thought I’d start a series of little blog posts to help you in your research, whether that’s for the sciencey-side of murder or for a historical period. So let’s go!
Top Tip Number 2 – Deciding on your initial sources
Once you’ve identified the specific topics you want to research, it’s time to think about your sources.
It’s always easier to start by thinking about what sources you already have. Do you have books on this or a similar topic that might yield some information? Make sure you check those out first to save yourself some time.
You can also think about what sources you like to use. Do you prefer talking to people? If you do, it might be worth thinking about oral interviews, or using social media to find people who can help. If you prefer libraries and fancy a research trip, will your local library be enough or do you need to try a university library? Do you need scholarly or more popular sources?
Don’t forget to consider what sources are appropriate for your topic. A quick Google search might help in doing this as it will throw up a whole load of things from blogposts to books, but just remember, you might need to delve a little deeper than just the first page of results (and don’t just trust Wikipedia!).
Are you ready for a secret top tip?
If you’re having trouble finding sources, you can always try looking at the bibliographies of books on similar topics! A book may not contain exactly what you want, but the author may have read and referenced something else that might help. Always check out a bibliography!
So now you’ve got a list of topics to research and a list of possible sources the next step (Tip 3 coming soon!) is to prioritise! But we’ll go into that more next time.
If you’re a writer don’t forget that you are allowed some artistic license so don’t get bogged down in research and stop being creative!
I hope this has been helpful for anyone starting out on a research journey. It’s always worth remembering that research is, and can be, fun!