Learning how and where to research any number of topics is essential for any writer, regardless of whether you choose to write articles, stories or your autobiography. For many people, this kind of research is something they haven’t done since being assigned a project at school. If that’s your case, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much easier the task is these days.

One clear advantage is that often the research topics at school were dictated by curriculum requirements, not your personal interests. So being able to pick your own subject and your approach to it goes a long way towards making the research fun.

Just consider a visit to the library, a web search, contacting the expert personally or any number of other original ways to find the details you need.

With so many companies, groups and research institutes open to the public, you need not look far before finding information. Even if your first contact can’t help, they’re often more than happy to redirect you to a more qualified person. In fact, I have often been surprised by just how friendly and eager most people are to help. Many have gone out of their way to find the answers I’m after.

Searching bookshelves, making phone calls, thinking laterally, looking at a topic in full depth, are all a lot more fun when you’re driven by a genuine eagerness to find the answers. It’s always possible that in a month or two, when you plan to do the write-up, you’ll still be fired up with curiosity - but what if you aren’t? The whole task will become a drudge and chances are that you won’t delve into the topic as well as if you’d done it in the beginning.
So chase the idea when it first hits and record clear and in-depth notes, making sure to list the individual sources of each piece of data. This enables you to refer back later to your notes and know exactly where you found what.

I always make notes in the form of bullet points when researching, making sure to write the information in my own words. This way, when it comes time to write up the article, there’s little chance that I’ll use the exact same phrases I found in my research material. And therefore, little chance I’ll be accused of plagiarism (using another person’s words and saying that they’re mine).

Years ago when my exuberance for research overtook my thoroughness, I spent a month ordering topical books into my local library and sifting through them, searching for the slightest relevant detail. After weeks of reading, I had literally piles of notes in front of me.

However, later, when it came time to write up my notes, I realised that a couple of my quotes seemed out of context and I needed to recheck them against their source. It was then that I realised that I hadn’t noted their source. So, because the information was vital in my manuscript, I had no alternative but to order in all the books again and start from scratch.

Needless to say, if I hadn’t been really hooked on the topic, the story would never have been finished.
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