One perk of the copywriter's job is that we’re able to get deeply involved in our clients’ work, which often means we have the opportunity to write about some really exciting stuff. To do that, however, we have to do a lot of research, which isn’t always so much fun.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of your research when you’re writing an article, even if you don’t necessarily have expert level knowledge — to begin with anyway.
1. Start broad and finish narrow
If you’re researching something that you don’t know a lot about, or even just need a refresher, it’s always helpful to start with the broad basics. Though much maligned in academic circles, Wikipedia can be useful if only for the wide range of sources it draws from. While you wouldn’t want to take anything as gospel based on a Wiki article alone, it’s a good initial way to get your head around a complex topic.
2. Build that bibliography
Your early research should leave you with a fair idea of the best resources available in the area you’re working in. A good way to expand from here, or to find more specific information, is to check out the bibliographies of resources you already have. By steadily building a reference list of reliable, comprehensive sources, you’re creating a permanent store of material to draw on — particularly helpful if you’ll be writing about the topic more than once.
3. Think about what you’re trying to find out
If you’re having a hard time finding the information you need, at the risk of sounding like a philosophy professor, you might want to think about whether you’re asking the right questions. Often when I start researching something, I rarely end up where I think I will. Often, an aspect of a topic that seemed initially tangential can become the whole focus of an article, and the major idea I had when I started was flawed in a way I didn’t even realise, so never be afraid to adjust your plans as you learn more.
4. Keep it relevant
At the same time, it’s also important to remember that all your research has an eventual purpose — writing something that people actually want to read — so keep that in mind as you go. Packing an article full of useless information can actually harm your credibility, so think of yourself as a curator, finding interesting facts and building a narrative around them.
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