Research Strategies That You Can Use
For some people, research comes naturally and it’s easy for them to get at the information that they need; for others, pinpointing useful information is a bit less easy. Either way, knowing how to trawl the depths of the Internet for straightforward, easy-to-understand facts is a definite art form. Whether you have a basic grasp of the subject you’ll be writing about, or if you’ve haven’t the first clue where to begin, meaghan shares a few of the tricks and strategies that she uses on a regular basis to make crafting a great article simple and pain-free.
Many of us who are writing for Textbroker haven’t had to do research of any kind since college or high school. For some people, research comes naturally and it’s easy for them to get at the information that they need; for others, pinpointing useful information is a bit less easy. Either way, knowing how to trawl the depths of the Internet for straightforward, easy-to-understand facts is a definite art form. Whether you have a basic grasp of the subject you’ll be writing about, or if you’ve haven’t the first clue where to begin, I’m going to share a few of the tricks and strategies that I use on a regular basis to make crafting a great article simple and pain-free.
A Note About Note-Taking
Before delving into the specifics about where to go for the information that you need, I thought I’d mention note-taking. Note-taking is definitely a personal choice; some people can’t do without it, while others barely scribble a thing down. For me, the simple act of jotting down a few especially pertinent details from the sources that I read seems to help make the information “stick.” Funnily enough, I rarely ever glance back down at my notes while writing an article, unless it’s to double-check a particularly cumbersome word or technical term.
Everyone has their own note-taking style, and you should experiment to find your “comfort zone.” If you find that writing oodles of notes makes you feel more confident about writing, go for it. On the other hand, if you rarely feel like note-taking is worth your while, don’t sweat it. The one thing I can say with confidence, though, is that you really shouldn’t overdo it. If you are filling entire college-ruled notebook pages with tiny, margin-to-margin notes for a 500-word article, then you’re probably going a bit overboard. Keep in mind that you can always refer back to your sources, assuming that you keep browser tabs open to the sites that you’re using.
Using Tabbed Browsing
Speaking of tabbed browsing, I want to quickly mention that it really does help to seek out sources, find a handful, read them over, then keep them open as tabs within your browser until you’ve finished composing an article. Bookmarking is well and good, but why bog your browser down with bookmarks for things that you’ll only need momentarily? As you come across great articles, entries, blogs and other sources for the topic that you’re researching, keep them open and accessible to you as you write.
Great Sites To Use
Depending on the topic that you’re researching, there are several options in terms of great websites to use for information. You not only want sources that are authoritative and dependable, but you also want ones that are succinct and to the point. Most of the time, Wikipedia is perfect for that. By Googling the topic you’re interested in plus the term “wiki,” you can usually get right to the relevant entry. Keep in mind, though, that some Wikipedia entries aren’t all that great – proceed with caution.
For medical topics, a site like WebMD is excellent because it doesn’t use a lot of medical jargon and is generally quite concise. Google News is a great place to get a broad perspective on current event topics and for other up-to-the-minute info. Basically, you want to stick with sources that you’ve heard of before; sites that end in .gov and .edu are usually pretty safe bets.
Finally, it’s always a smart idea to go “to the source” when writing about certain topics. If you have a client who wants a blurb about tile flooring, for instance, Google around for a well-designed flooring contractor site. With any luck, you’ll find one that includes a lot of great resources, and you can get the scoop “from the horse’s mouth.” Unless otherwise specified, try to avoid relying on user review sites since opinions can be biased and information can be inaccurate.
Plagiarism is, naturally, absolutely not permitted or tolerated by Textbroker or any of its clients. Some people are so afraid of inadvertently plagiarizing something that they are wary of reading other articles on the web that relate to their subject. While you definitely don’t want to keep clicking back over to see how another article is laid out, worded or otherwise composed, it is certainly okay to find a well-written article to read through for inspiration. My advice is to zero in on one article that really strikes a chord with you, give it a quick read-through, then close it and don’t look back. This way, you can find the tone or the general gist of your article, which can help you ward off writer’s block.