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How To Get The Research Done

research  for writersby CJ Arlotta

I’m not your typical freelance writer: I study political science, criminal justice and history, not English. I’m here to let you know that writing is not always the important part of a being a freelance writer; being able to research topics, ideas and concepts is also an imperative skill for anyone in the business.

Gathering information, a step in the writing process that many people forget about, gives your writing the extra substance your editor is always looking for. Even though my areas of concentration allow me to research with ease, it may not be as easy for others, which is why I want to help.

Start off by creating an outline for yourself. I know this may be a simple instruction that most of us have learned in our days of schooling, but you’d be surprised at  how many of us still do not do it. My preference is to use a yellow legal pad to gather all of my thoughts down on paper: there is something about typing an outline out on a machine that prevents me from thinking straight. After outlining where you would like your article to go, the next step is to do the research. If you already have outlining down, this may be the area where you struggle. Below are some websites to help get you started:

  • Google – Since you’re doing research, a search engine should be the first place you visit. If you are more comfortable using another search engine, go ahead. I’ve had a great deal of success with Google, which means I will continue to use it. My advice is to always move around the key terms you are searching for. If one way of ordering the terms is not producing the results you are looking for, try flipping the terms around or even using new terms. Eventually, Google will help you find the lead you are looking for.
  • Wikipedia – I’m sure a lot of you cannot believe that I am suggesting Wikipedia for research, but I am. Wikipedia is a great place to find general information on topics – unless of course those topics have anything to do with politics. If you only read the information written out for you on the page, you are sure to get some of the facts wrong. Instead, scroll down to the “references” heading at the bottom of the page. You will see a whole list of clickable articles to use. Going to these sources, instead of using the main article page, is where you should get your research from on Wikipedia.

  • Databases – Fortunately for me, I am able to access databases through a university’s website. Since the university pays for these databases, it’s free for the students (technically not because of tuition, but you get my drift). If you are able to afford the fees for databases, you’re already ahead of the game. Databases are very useful for research, and they also always provide you with valid sources of information. Search engines, on the other hand, may provide you with sources that are not authoritative, which is why you must pay careful attention to detail.

If your article needs research, don’t be afraid to tackle it. With the above places to start, your researching days will be endless. The key to research is to pay attention to detail, and look for the information that matters the most to your article. Without any research, your writing becomes just thoughts without any explanation.

CJ Arlotta is a motivational and an enthusiastic freelance writer and speaker for a variety of known websites, Social Times – a social media source – is one of them. His gaming articles, which have been picked up by WebProNews and Games.com, have predicted the outcome of social gaming. Although his freelance writing is not limited to just social gaming, he spends the majority of his time writing articles regarding the increasingly popular topic.

What’s your favorite research trick?

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Excellently said! In fact, that’s what I use the Wikipedia for. But we cannot discount the Wikipedia material as well. It has been proven that Wikipedia material is far more reliable than the National Encyclopedia.

  • Archana

    Great info here. Thanks!

  • If I outline the article, I lose the article. I have to keep a loose framework in my head and not write until I sit down to write the article. Which makes no sense, because when I write novels, I do writer’s rough outlines ahead of time. But it doesn’t work for me in non-fiction. I can source on paper, but that’s it. I know my slant, and then I research, usually at libraries (both virtual and in-person) and finding experts in the field, often in universities. They’re enthusiastic about the topic, I come away with not just information, but understanding, and then I can communicate that enthusiasm in the article. Or I hunt down professionals in the field.

    Anything found online, I make sure I can verify from a primary source.

    I don’t use databases as much as I should — thanks for reminding me about them.
    Devon Ellington recently posted..Tuesday- February 15- 2011My Profile

    • Thanks, Devon, for point out that there is never a one-size-fits-all solution.

  • Thanks for the advice! I’ve been hesitating on tackling this article because it’s been years since I sat down to really research, so this is very well timed for me. 😀

    • Ahhhh. Love it when it works like that.

  • Many public libraries subscribe to a lot of databases (or they’re in networks that have some database access). I was amazed to find all the great resources I could access with my public library card!

    • Good point, Jill and one often lost in the focus and dependence on the ‘net.

  • Great info here CJ. I start with a Google search, and a Wikipedia page is almost always one of the first results listed.

    I haven’t made much use of databases yet, but I do remember using them way back in the olden days when I was in graduate school.
    John Soares recently posted..Get Permission to Use Copyrighted PhotosMy Profile

    • Glad to hear from both CJ and John that I’m not the only one who finds Wikipedia helpful, even with it’s potential problems.

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