Writing is all about research

This past week, my friends and I were brainstorming ideas for various assignments and potential future stories. As writers, we build off each others ideas before reaching some sort of ridiculous conclusion. The conclusion usually presents as a series of questions to be answered before the story can even get off the ground. In this instance, the questions that tripped us up were about the postal system and how many pieces a person can be cut into.

The wonderful Emma Bull once said that she became a writer so she would never have to do research again. As it turns out, writing is all about research. It’s about getting every detail, no matter how small, right. Because someone who perhaps knows more than you about a specific subject (weird, right?) will do one of two things:

1—If the detail is wrong, they’ll assume you have no idea what you’re talking about.


2—If the detail is correct, they’ll get a small thrill out of already possessing said knowledge.

I want to make this clear: Not all readers are like this. But, it is something I have personally done.

Research is hard and time consuming

Sometimes you simply can’t find the answers. Last month I Googled “average number of bodies on a mountain” and the only results I got were about the 200+ bodies on Mount Everest. While I’m sure this information is helpful to some people, it wasn’t much use to me. My mountain isn’t the tallest in the world, or extremely difficult to climb. Well, it is, but that’s because of a witch. The point is, you have to do research first before you make stuff up. You don’t want to be called out on it later.

Resources to help with research

reference desk

GoogleSure, Google has its limitations, but most questions can be answered here. Recently, I had to look up the temperature blood freezes at. Google knew the answer. (It’s absolute zero.)

HavocscopeThis is a database full of black market information based on statistics. It has everything from the price of drugs to the sale of illegal firearms. Perfect for writers.

WikipediaNotoriously untrustworthy, but a good place to go for general knowledge. If you’re starting with a completely new concept, time period, etc. it’s a good place to start.

Libraries—Another place to start if you need to gather information before the writing begins. The children’s section usually has books to introduce you to a topic, like DK Publishing, who offer an extensive range of topics. Conveniently located inside libraries are reference librarians. If there is a question you can’t find the answer to, (and don’t want to dedicate the time looking for) the reference librarian is literally at your beck and call.

Textbooks—If you need lots of information about a specific subject, textbooks are the way to go. However, buying textbooks is financially impractical. Some libraries have donated textbooks, and secondhand bookshops occasionally have them. Make sure to double check facts from out-of-date textbooks in case of any changes.

Now, it’s your turn:

What are some of your favorite places or resources for doing research? What weird things have you Googled lately?

Meet the blogger:

Abby CampbellAbby Campbell is a senior in the Creative Writing program at Hamline. A proud Hufflepuff and James Potter in her group of Marauders, she would much rather spend hours on the Internet than do homework. Abby’s goals are loftier than her height and she is currently working to share her stories with the world.

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