Today we’re still working through the alphabet with the A to Z Challenge. We’re going to look at a fun topic which will work for any blogger, whether you are an author, an entrepreneur, or a family member. We’re continuing with Build a Better Blog and today we’re going to look at
R is for Regarding Research.
If you’re an author, I don’t need to tell you how much research you need to do to be sure you have your facts correct or to find inspiration for building your countries or characters.
If you’re an entrepreneur, there are so many places you can go for ideas to work on your craft or hobby. And if you’re doing a family blog, you can look for background to significant locations, or look up genealogy sites for family history.
So how do we go about it?
Praise God for the Internet!
- I think back to my first days of writing and the amount of time taken up visiting the library and scouring through thick books as I researched information. Yet today, Google™ has made it all much easier.
- Where before we may have tended to write about topics we knew about, now we can step right out the box and tackle any subject that intrigues us. In my previous A to Z Challenge, I gave an example about the Serengeti, a fascinating part of our continent I’d never heard of. Because I heard my brother and sister-in-law were going there, and because I knew nothing about it, I decided to turn to Google™ for my research, and what an amazing resource it proved to be.
Beware of certain dangers with Google™!
- Remember that the material on Google is often not written by experts, and it may be wrong. You need to check references and make sure you agree before you quote them.
- Also be careful how you word your writing. Make it clear if you’re quoting someone, and give them credit including a URL if possible.
- Be careful of plagiarism. Google™ is a great source of information, but you need to write it in your own words, or see above point.
- Beware of grabbing photographs. Read more about that under Go to Google and Interesting Images.
A blog is an ideal place to share your research.
- You can ask others for further information. Once again, bear in mind, your friends and visitors are not likely to be experts.
- Are you writing a themed novel? You can share information you learn that may or may not end up in your story. Ask visitors for further input. Intrigue your readers so they will want to learn more and be eager to read your book.
Use your blog to get personal reactions to situations or locations.
- Local Situations: eg. the Rwanda Genocide in 2014: If you want your hero to come across a woman who survived this genocide, it is not an easy scene for you to imagine. Why not write a blog post? Give some background to what you want to know, and ask if anyone experienced this. You are likely to only get one or two responses to a question like this, but you can then arrange to make contact with them to get first hand information.
- This will be way more than something your imagination, no matter how creative, could dream up.
Compile a few questions on the topic you want to research.
- Ask everyone you know to visit and answer.
- Put your answers in a Y/N format, or a 1-5, 1 being not at all and 5 being absolutely love it. That will encourage people to respond. Many of your visitors will not want to leave you a long response.
Don’t stop at the first layer of facts.
- Say you want to write about a Bible character—let’s say Jacob. You read his story in your Bible and you’re eager to get started. Stop. Google his name, then try “during the time of Jacob” or “the cultures during Jacob’s life”. Read from some reputable sites or well-known authors and see what they can tell you.
- Each time you read a fact, query it and dig deeper, until you feel you know more about Jacob than most experts.
- Read the Bible again to refresh your memories, and I guarantee you’ll read it in a new light. Now you’re ready to write about Jacob!
Want to write a how-to?
- This could be for your family, for the general public, or for a book. Check your facts, your measurements, and your international English! Give alternate measurements, metric and imperial. My research tells me the only countries that cling to the imperial measurements are Liberia, Myanmar, and the United States of America. But the U.S.A. is a biggy! So if you want your writing understood globally, better help them out by giving the alternative values. Or use universal measurements like “1 cup or 3 tablespoons”. But when it comes to measuring distances, better give the feet and inches as well as the kilometres and centimetres.
- How do you do this? Easy! Type in what you want in a search bar and it’ll give you the answer at once. e.g. I’ve just typed 7 metres in feet into a search bar on Google and immediately got 7 metres = 22,9659 feet. (Added later) This is so funny. In a comment below, Anne points out my apparent error! I put a comma instead of a period. In American English this should read 22.9659 feet! (Thank you Ann!) However, in S.Africa we use a comma instead of a period. One of the joys of international writing! So to be clear: 7 metres is nearly twenty-three feet! 🙂
Use the previous tip if you are following a pattern or recipe from another country.
- e.g. If I was baking a cake and it told me to cook it at 325 Fh – and I ignored the Fh and just set my South African oven to 325, my cake would be a guaranteed disaster! Why? Because when I type 325 Fh into my search bar it tells me that’s 162,778 degrees Celsius.
What other tips do you have for research?
What tools do you especially find helpful?
Please add your suggestions in a comment section below. I’d love to hear from you.
FURTHER POSTS TO READ: