We’re back to the cereal – I mean serial – articles. (What can I say? It’s Friday afternoon…you want comedy – go to YukYuks.) 😉
Here’s today’s post…
Research is all about learning, finding new ideas and new information. It means speaking with people, reading books and magazines, and examining your own experiences.
We are going to look at six ways to research your topic.
1. Start a research file.
3. Visit a bookstore.
4. Go to the Web.
5. Discover the library.
6. Interview a subject matter expert.
Start a Research File
When you find something relevant to your topic, clip or copy the article and put it in the file. If it’s a web page or online document, print it and drop it into the appropriate chapter file.
By all means keep electronic copies of everything. Having a hardcopy is a way to make sure you never lose your research, and it gives you something to easily refer to and make other notes on while you accumulate more ideas and data.
Start a research file as soon as you get the idea for an e-book – even if you are not committed to publishing it. By the time you get to the point of writing, you’ll find you have almost all the research materials you need BEFORE you even start actively looking.
Talking to yourself may not be good behavior in public, but it is an excellent place to start when you are writing a book. What do you think you were doing when you chose a topic, thought about keywords and developed an outline? After all, brainstorming can be done with a group or on your own.
Now you get to talk to yourself about the topic you have chosen. What do you know about your topic? What do you not know that you want to learn?
Make note of questions that occur to you as you write. It’s a good bet that your readers would like to know the answers, too. Keep those questions with you as you do the rest of your research.
Visit a Bookstore
Visit a big bookstore so you can get a feel for what is currently selling on your topic.
Another good place to look for books on your topic is a used book store. Older and out-of-print books can still contain useful content and ideas. They can also provide information other authors don’t have access to because those other authors skipped this research step.
How many books are there on your topic, and when were they written? Having a lot of books on your topic in the bookstores is a good thing. It means your subject is popular, and there is a large market for your information.
Consider the outline methods other authors have used. Are they generally the same, or are there two or three that are arranged differently from the others? Are any of the outline methods the same as the one you want to use?
While you are in the bookstore, take time to look through the magazine racks. Search for articles on your topic, and consider which magazines you find those articles in.
Current articles are a beacon to what is of interest to other readers of your topic. Combining this information with your analysis of books on the shelves is an important part of bringing focus to your efforts.
Go to the Web
Begin by understanding that some information on the internet is inaccurate. You are responsible for verifying the facts you gather
One thing to be aware of is that there are more search engines than Google and Yahoo. A different kind of search engine is the Vertical Search Engines. These allow you to search for information on a specific subject.
An example of a vertical search engine can be seen at www.aviationweek.com. The search box at the top of the site looks just like any other search box. The first indication that it is more specific, and targeted, is that it’s labeled Industry Search. Then directly under the search box is the sentence: Filtered results from News, Companies, Products/Services & The Web in a single search.
This kind of search engine can be a great way to find information on your topic. Let’s say you are looking for blogs by people interested in your topic. You can access a vertical search engine for blogs at blogdigger. Just keep in mind that all vertical search engines only look through a selection of databases related to the topic. You should still use the broad search engines like Google to check for other sources.
An excellent means of discovering what people interested in your topic are talking about is to join a discussion group. You can find these at sites like Topica and Yahoo. You can also search sites like LinkedIn, ExecuNet, and Facebook to find individuals interested in your topic. You probably won’t get a lot of quotes, but the people you meet can tell you about other sources of information.
Use the Web to look for associations related to your topic. These can be a source of current information, and a lead to finding an expert on your topic. We’ll discuss that more in a minute.
You can also use the Web to prepare for using the next research tool – the library. You can search library collections and databases, and reserve materials, from the comfort of your home. This can make your time in the library much more effective and productive.
Discover the Library
The library is where you can verify information collected from the Web, expand on information from you own experience, and assess the value of information gathered from the bookstore. The library also has books the bookstore does not. It can also be just a quiet place to work.
Older sources often aren’t online. You can find out-of-print books at the library, and libraries maintain special collections not available online.
Borrow the books you find to read what other authors are writing about your topic. Glean information and new ideas from their work.
Another valuable resource in the library – one often overlooked – is the research librarian. Their help is free for the asking, and you can be sure there is no one more familiar with all the resources in the library than the librarian.
Interview a Subject Matter Expert
From the associations you found on the Web, the books you saw, and the magazines you read, you can find a wealth of experts to interview.
The information you gather by interviewing experts can be used as background, or you can quote the experts directly. A direct quote can be useful to emphasize a point or validate a position.
Start your search for an expert in the material you have already gathered. Look for authors of books and articles, members of associations, or instructors at a college or university. You should also consider museums, government agencies, local industries, and newspapers.
The International Center for Journalists has experts available for interviews on a variety of topics. Zondervan, the book publisher, also maintains a list of experts available for interviews and speaking engagements.
Be sure you are prepared for an interview before contacting an expert. Have questions written, and be prepared to offer alternatives to a telephone or in-person interview. When an expert is particularly busy, your only way to get an interview may be to submit questions by e-mail or letter.
The research you do for your e-book is more than gathering facts and organizing information. Research is your opportunity to assess the focus of your project, add to your outline, and think about ideas for future projects.