Research, Research, Research: The Heart of a Good Article

Peter B. GiblettStarred Page By Peter B. Giblett, 11th Jun 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3_b780ek/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

A friend told me recently about the way her grandson uses the Internet to research things, not just his homework but everything he is thinking about. My son, who is spending time crafting novels also spends a significant amount of research to support his stories. Research is at the heart of any good story.

The Story needs to be Told...

It is true that there are occasions when you find a story that MUST be told, yet there are many ways to tell the same story, one of the reasons why several writers can tell the story of a particular event and how they portray the event will be entirely different. Add a few hundred years to push the event into the more distant past, where the writer knows there is no person alive to tell their story then they must research the events in question to understand how everything unfolded and this researcher may even uncover an explanation of what happened that was not considered at the time.

Even if your grandfather told you what happened with his dying breath, when you were aged seven, did not mean his last words were the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth - I am not saying that your grandfather lied, but stories have a tendency to be twisted through the journey of time, particularly personal one, especially those told through many generations, just the same way as a game of Chinese whispers causes each person to adapt the story, using their own personal experiences, emotional history, likes, dislikes, etc. to cause changes in the story. Those changes affect how each person hearing the story perceives the truth.

Again there is another aspect here - there is no such thing as THE TRUTH! There is no one truth about any event and there can never be, each observer will take the simple event they witness and within seconds they are applying their own personal emotions, logic and perception to them in order to conceptualise what they think happened, the events start to get stored in our long term memory and in order for that to happen we begin the process of indexing things according to our prior experiences, that method is different for each person who is a witness. This explains why when a police officer asks for details of a crime they get many different descriptions of the suspect, including the Japanese lady wearing a yellow bonnet and the black man wearing a hoodie, it is not that any witness is wrong, they simply saw different aspects and remember the events differently, the suspect may be neither of them or it may be both.

Research: a Vital part of Writing

Few stories can be told where we, the writer, knows everything there is to discover about the subject matter at hand. In truth we need to research almost as soon as we have an idea and continue that research till the piece is published. A good writer performs their research before writing a single word. Sadly the bad writer hears the story and throws a few words down on the page, without analysis, in the hope that being first to air the story is good enough, when it is not.

If you are writing for the Internet, yet not using the Internet to research your stories then you are missing out an so much and my friend's grandson can do so much more than you. As a writer you should not consider your goal to be the first to be published, but the person readers turn to in order to uncover the heart of the matter.

Have you ever used Twitter for your Search?

Let's assume for a moment you intended to write a story about the "FBI breaking encryption for Facebook", well go to Twitter and see what happens when you type "fbi encryption" into Twitter's search bar - you will find all recent tweets about this subject and other matters relating the both the FBI and their encryption breaking capabilities. Suddenly you have further background material that is both recent and relevant to your topic, surely you can no longer produce that 200 word piece that makes a simple allegation of impropriety by the FBI, now you have a wealth of material to backup your allegations and can highlight other recent breaches that have occurred, making your contribution so much more powerful.

Many writers use Twitter to publicise their material after it is published, but few ever think about it as a research tool, here it is a case of thinking differently about tool you already use.

Google Can't Help!

Both Google and Bing are general search engines, they were built with the intention to give the majority of people access to common sources of information. It is true that there are limitations to Google, Bing and other search engines, indeed there are times when a specialist search is necessary, they categorise specialist material, such as scientific data, then make this information available to their specialist audience. There are search engines that specialise in areas like:

  • Academic research
  • Scientific research
  • Historical data
  • Government data and research
  • Books and publications
  • Legal research
  • Academic papers

All of these can be of relevance to article writers, you should check out 100 Search Engines For Academic Research for more assistance in finding ones that may be relevant to you. I have built a catalogue of search engines and sources which I have discovered over the years - whenever I find a page that may help my research efforts in any subject area I bookmark it for future reference; I may have somewhere near a hundred of these bookmarked on my computer.

Including Free E-Books?

Personally I have a huge collection of material that can become sources for anything that I write, but one of the good things about ebooks is the ability to mark and highlight them then retain a future way to reference back to information. By searching the Internet I have found that it is possible to access a huge array of free books, particularly those that are out of copyright, Project Gutenberg is perhaps the place to start in finding free e-books.

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  • Twitter Search by Peter Giblett
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Peter's Work

Peter Giblett regularly publishes here on Wikinut and contributes a regular column on 2 Drops of Ink, a site dedicated to the improvement of writing, grammar, and prose. Recent works on Wikinut include:

Wikinut is great a place to share some of your own personal wisdom by adding a comment or becoming a writer, join Wikinut and write.

Tags

Adapt The Story, An Idea, Background Material, Chinese Whispers, General Search Engines, Good Article, Perceive The Truth, Peter Giblett, Research, Truth

Meet the author

author avatar Peter B. Giblett
Author of "Is your Business Ready? For the Social Media Revolution"

Social media consultant, with C-Level background.

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Comments

author avatar Retired
11th Jun 2015 (#)

I'm not convinced that the Internet is the best source for research, unless you know that the material you are using can be trusted.

One of the worst culprits is Wikipedia, due to the fact that anyone can write and change material on it. Some of us are able to sort the wheat from the chaff - I have professional training and 40 years' experience in such matters - but not everyone is so lucky.

Books and journals - if published by reputable publishers - are often a better bet for reliable information.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
11th Jun 2015 (#)

John, I take what you say seriously and agree that there are some on-line sources that should not be trusted, yet there are many professional papers on-line for any area of expertise. IT papers have been available from reliable on-line sources for as long as I can remember.

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author avatar Carol Roach
11th Jun 2015 (#)

excellent Peter, I am a retired therapist, and you have explained cognitive psychology well. One point I would add on past memories, besides bringing our own perpective to the event, things get distorted over time and memories often get mixed up. I have written about it.

On another point, always have sources when you write but be careful what those sources are, check their validity.

Would you trust a tobacco company putting out resource that cigarates are totally harmless, they have a vested interest in saying they are to make money, not to save humanity.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
11th Jun 2015 (#)

That look at what we perceive as the truth is based on my own research over the years and backed up by my Law degree, people do get emotional about the truth, but it is their perspective they are emotional about, not the truth.

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author avatar Carol Roach
11th Jun 2015 (#)

nice to know Peter, it is still the foundation of cognitive pscychology and of course many other disciplines will use it as well, having said that you brought up many good points which the various disciplines agree up, and of course as a lawyer or one of the many areas of work withing the legal field you must have experienced it first hand with clients and so on.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
12th Jun 2015 (#)

Thank you.

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author avatar spirited
12th Jun 2015 (#)

"Even if your grandfather told you what happened with his dying breath, when you were aged seven, did not mean his last words were the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Of course, as long as we research the real facts too, there is nothing wrong with quoting the words of our grandfather in our story too though, is there?

Sometimes non-truth, even lies add to the colour of our story, as long as we point out that that is what they are our grandfather's remembrance of the event.

Another very useful article for us writers, thanks Peter!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
12th Jun 2015 (#)

Of course there is nothing wrong with using grandfather's words but they are more likely to be appropriate for a fictional story than a factual one.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
12th Jun 2015 (#)

The message is clear enough, thanks Peter.

I always wonder whether history as told represent real facts. Prejudices of the narrator will find their place.

I also believe even our beliefs may not be above board and I will leave it at that. I like to see whether they stand to reason, add up. Otherwise, our God can admonish us later - Why didn't you use your brain that I had assiduously given each one of you? siva

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
12th Jun 2015 (#)

She may have given each of us a brain, but sadly there are a large number that forgot to collect the owners manual.

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author avatar snerfu
13th Jun 2015 (#)

Right, very well put. Every God hard wires the brain differently...the reason why one person sees an apple and says Vitamin A while another says...BOMB!
Nice to read about why research is so important for article writing Mr. Giblett.

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author avatar Ptrikha
15th Jun 2015 (#)

The 100 search engines for academic research is a great link. I too have over the years learnt how to be better in my research before writing an article, besides writing a couple of "Research" kind of articles :)

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
15th Jun 2015 (#)

Ptrikha, research has also taught me me when not to say anything.

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author avatar akram saqib
20th Jun 2015 (#)

Research on internet is the worst thing on the face of earth. There is 99 % lie on internet. It is always biased and false. Why do you suggest such hackneyed things????????

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author avatar Retired
20th Jun 2015 (#)

Akram, I think you might be overstating the case just a tad!

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
20th Jun 2015 (#)

There are plenty of professional sources on the internet that do not present biased or false information. As a member of the IT profession I have used the Internet for research (but not exclusively) since the 1970s with great success. But at no point did I say where you should get you material - I merely stated that you should do research because too many people do nothing to enhance the standing of their material.

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author avatar akram saqib
20th Jun 2015 (#)

copy paste material is in excess you can copy codes ,steel other peoples effort without effort nothing more research like thing on net

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author avatar Retired
20th Jun 2015 (#)

Akram, You are making an error in logic by saying that because one aspect of a thing (in this case the Internet) can be open to abuse, the whole thing must be avoided at all costs.

This is like saying that because there are bad books, nobody must rely on any book - because it might be bad.

It is important to distinguish between reliable and unreliable sources, and that is something I do on behalf of students in my role as an assistant librarian at a university library. In this regard, it does not matter what sort of source is under review - paper-based or web-based.

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
21st Jun 2015 (#)

Thank you John - it is important to know the difference between reliable or unreliable research material.

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