Research 101: Tips For Doing Research Effectively

Knowing how to do your research effectively is an immense time saver. And with time being one of the most important resources writers have, that’s not a small boon. Effective research also improves the quality of your piece, so it’s definitely one skill you need to have in your arsenal.

The Internet is a great resource for research, but it should not be used lightly. The information you gather through a regular Internet search might not be accurate and you can easily get sidetracked. Also, sometimes it’s hard to decide where to begin, but that should depend on the nature of your piece. Whether it’s an article in a certain niche, a news-type piece or an essay – or anything in between – there are resources that can help you out.

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Basic research

In case you know nothing about your topic, it’s best to start with a Google or Wikipedia search (or both). This is just to get yourself familiar with what you’re supposed to write about, and, depending on the depth you’re planning for your piece, it can lead you to other resources. Wikipedia is especially good for that, with its References section and a plethora of links to explore.

Google, of course, is the most common search tool, and you can utilize it to great effect. It’s great for finding and narrowing down your topic. Depending on your needs, you can use specialized Google tools, such as Google Scholar or Google Keyword Planner, for instance.

Extensive research

Extensive research is best left for later, when you already have a general idea about your topic. During your basic research, you might have run into a term or a concept that is worth developing further in your piece. Perhaps it’s even something you could build your whole piece around.

Start with the basic research of this term or concept, and look for the aspects that would fit into your general idea. For example, you might be writing a piece on productivity, and you want to research the psychology behind it. This is a vast topic that’s impossible to cover extensively, so you could try narrowing it down further. A bit more research, and you could center your piece on finding the roots of your procrastinating habits. You could look up psychological studies on the topic, articles and other resources to increase your knowledge.

This kind of research allows you to get into the details of your subject matter, and that can make a difference between a good piece and a great one. Don’t be afraid to spend extra time going through credible resources on your topic – it’s bound to pay off.

Short news piece research

My favorite place to begin for this kind of research is newsnow.co.uk, even if I don’t have a topic in mind yet. You can use the categories to easily find the latest news and articles in the niche that interests you, and if you already have your topic, a quick search will yield the results on your keyword.

It’s easy to see why this is so useful: for example, if I want to write about a certain video game for a gaming website, all I have to do is to type its name into the search box, and I’ll get all the recent news about it. In most cases it won’t direct me to irrelevant sources, or poorly written articles that you could run into otherwise, if your topic is on the obscure side. (For example, a Google-translated article from Polish just sitting there, basically unreadable.) It’s easy to catch up and find other resources on it, and you’ll quickly find out everything you need to know for writing your piece. You can even use it to find viral news and posts.

While this is great for shorter pieces, it’s probably not the best resource for longer, authority articles.

Authority article research

If you’re writing an authority article, odds are you are familiar with your topic already. In this case basic research is probably not necessary, but in order to flesh out your piece, you should check out what your competitors are doing. Look up other authority websites in your niche to see if they covered the particular topic and how.

Perhaps their content is not extensive enough, or can be covered from a different, fresher perspective? For example, maybe you have better SEO strategies to share and can design a case study to showcase it. When writing authority articles, the key to success is to do it better than everyone else. Knowing what everyone else is doing is, therefore, the way to go about it.

How do you find a credible resource?

Google is making research easier for us by also considering the credibility of the website when ranking it. It’s always good to stick to the top results you get in your search. Pay attention to the domain of the website as well: .edu or . gov are usually a good bet, though you may not always find all the information you need. Still, you can be sure that the information you do find there is credible, and it could be a good place to start.

Other research tips

It’s always good to keep track of your research. By that I mean saving the links somewhere so you can easily access them later. Often I do research for a batch of articles at once, whether it’s brainstorming for ideas or a targeted research.  I write down points I’m going to explore for each article, and add links to them. When I sit down to write the article, I have all the resources listed, and I know what each link is about so I don’t have to waste time searching for the one I need.

This leads me to my next tip: use research to help you do the outline of your piece. That means investigating potential keywords and incorporating them, finding a fresh perspective and planning out the structure. Don’t limit yourself only to ideas you had before your research, but rather expand on them.

 

Research doesn’t have to be a toil, and hopefully you found our article helpful. If you have any tips you’d like to share, tell us in the comments, and follow us for more writing advice.

Jana Glavonjić

Writer, freelancer, editor, avid reader of fantasy and the best sister in the world.

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