Many, if not all, creative writing projects require research to get started. Science fiction requires a heavy understanding of science (you need to know the rules to break them), and historical fiction requires a lot of history. Even if you’re not writing in one of these genres, research is still an important skill to learn for any writing. Even if you write a close-to-home contemporary romance novel set in your hometown, you will still probably find some kind of blind spot that can only be filled in with outside information. For this reason, it is essential for every writer to also become an excellent researcher.
1. Wikipedia is an excellent start
Wikipedia is an excellent way to kickstart your research. Never use Wikipedia as your main source, but it can provide a general overview of your topic. It’s good for a quick beginning look at your topic. Plus, Wikipedia always cites their sources, so you can find extra sources there.
2. Borrow sources
This is related to point one, but you can also borrow sources from your other sources. I love watching YouTube videos and listening to podcasts about history, and while those are always great places to start, I never let them be the end of my research. However, many people cite their sources in the description of their videos/podcasts, which is a great way to find more sources and corroborate their stories
My novel started with the podcast Stuff You Missed in History Class when they did an episode on the Tiara of Saitaphernes. The episode was so inspiring to me that the moment I got off the bus, I started my research right away, starting with the sources that the podcast used to have listed in their description. It was an excellent way to kickstart my research, and I continued by tracing sources from those sources, and so on.
3. Books are your best friend
While online sources can be great, using books is generally one of the best ways that you can conduct your research. Books tend to be a better source than online sources, since there is often a lot more fact-checking that goes into them before publishing, and tend to be a lot more in-depth than online articles.
4. Learn your online sources
If your subject is niche enough, it may be difficult to find full-scale published books on the topic. This is something I ran into while researching for my novel on the Tiara of Saitaphernes, it was impossible to find a single book on the topic – though I am still on the lookout, on the off chance that you come across one – so I had to turn mostly to online sources.
However, not all online sources are made equal. Some are more reputable, such as those from official publications (any major newspaper, encyclopedia, or historical society), as opposed to those published by random people on wordpress.
There is one major caveat to this. If a random person you find can cite their sources and has acquired their information from a reputable source, you may be able to listen to what they have to say.
5. Use your school email to your advantage
If you are currently a university student, your school email is your best friend. With your school email, you can access a lot of research sites, such as JSTOR, or your school’s library. With sites like these, you can access reputable sources and academic articles. This is especially helpful if you’re researching science or history subjects.
That was just a general overview of research for writing, I hope the tips were helpful! Of course, you will find your own research methods that work for you, and different projects will ask for different amounts of research from you. This is still an essential skill to acquire, and like writing, it takes a lot of practice, so be patient with yourself and stick with it.
is a young writer from Ottawa, Canada. When he isn’t in school, he enjoys reading, writing, crochet, and playing with his two cats. Their favorite genres are horror and fantasy, and they enjoy all things strange. You can find him on Instagram at @nate_fahmi
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