A long while back I wrote a post “Writing When You Know Nothing About the Subject Part 1” and followed up with a part two, but due to the quirks of cyberspace and my inability to remember to back up my posts for FWJ, the piece disappeared into the great Internet unknown. I was glad so many of you were interested in the second part of the piece and while I can’t guarantee this was exactly what I wrote, it’s pretty close!
When you need to write an article and know little to nothing about a subject, the most important part of getting the piece right is getting the research right. It’s not enough to Google a topic, in fact the most Google should be used for is to find articles, foundations, government branches and authors in the subject.
Book authors, especially those recently published, are always looking for opportunities to get their name and books out in front of an interested audience. Also, books will cite their sources that you can also contact for your article. Authors expect you to have read their book or at least thoroughly skimmed them before your interview, be sure to take a little library or bookstore time into consideration when planning your research.
Government branches interviews are sometimes difficult to get, their web sites usually have tons of information, statistics, etc., available for use. The most difficult thing about getting information from government branches is finding the right person to talk to and getting your calls returned. Of course, depending on the publication, higher profile sites and magazines often have their calls returned faster.
When considering using foundations as a source for an article be fully aware of focus of the foundation. Are they simply autism awareness advocates or do they promote a link between autism and vaccines? The slant of the foundation should be noted within the article so readers are fully informed.
Institutions of higher learning are also great places to begin research. The experts there are great at not only giving a thorough explanation of the topic, they have their fingers on the pulse of research, development and breakthroughs on the subject. Remember, all sources have the potential to link you to other experts, real world examples, etc.
Many writers – journalists, freelancers, etc., have to know a little about a lot of different subjects and the ability to quickly learn, dissect and disseminate information is essential to being a successful writer. Learning a new subject helps writers look at the subject through the audience’s eyes. It also gives the writer plenty of fresh material. It is a great idea for niche writers to get out there every so often an attack a new subject. It allows breathing time away from their chosen area of expertise while opening up new avenues for their career.
FWJ has some great material on sources and research:
Research – More Than Just Google – Terreece M. Clarke
Seducing a Reluctant Source – Terreece M. Clarke
6 Ways to Conduct Accurate Research – Deb Ng
How Well Do You Fact Check – Terreece M. Clarke