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Researching your work

From: Writing Articles

Video: Researching your work

Solid research brings an expert voice to your article, even if you're not already an expert in the subject. Research methods fall into a few categories. The first is one that most people know well: web searches. This is a good place to start, especially if you don't know much about a subject. Along the way browse Wikipedia for background information. Although some writers criticize it, I still think it's one of the best ways to get a broad overview of most subjects. Going a little deeper, consider searching for papers published in academic journals.

Researching your work

Solid research brings an expert voice to your article, even if you're not already an expert in the subject. Research methods fall into a few categories. The first is one that most people know well: web searches. This is a good place to start, especially if you don't know much about a subject. Along the way browse Wikipedia for background information. Although some writers criticize it, I still think it's one of the best ways to get a broad overview of most subjects. Going a little deeper, consider searching for papers published in academic journals.

You can find such sources through Google Scholar, at scholar.google.com. Although you'll get some good links in return, you'll probably not have access to the actual sources themselves, which require payment. Google Scholar is an example of a specialized search, but it's not the only one. You might also benefit from patent searches, geographical searches, and the like. Now, it's time to take a trip to the library. There's a good chance your local public, college, or specialty library is a subscriber to online databases of specialized information.

Talk to the reference librarian for details. Most of that stuff isn't available on the free Internet, and it can give your pieces unexpected depth. But all online research is weak if your article is about anything that predates the Internet, and that's where physical books come in. Again, reference librarians are there to help. Whatever research method I use, I make it a point to save useful information right away when I find it, but be careful. In some subjects there's a lot of misinformation, and errors tend to get repeated over and over, especially online.

So, weigh your sources carefully and wherever appropriate, attribute them properly. For example, you might start one sentence, "According to a source at such and such foundation," and then tell the fact that you found there. As a last research method consider using person-to-person interviews to gather information. Direct quotes are a great way to liven up an article, adding both personality and a current outlook that you won't get in any other way. All of these methods serve to bolster what you personally bring to the article.

A mixture of hard facts and your unique voice is the value that you provide to a publication.

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Writing Articles

20 video lessons · 9442 viewers

Tom Geller
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