Having a book idea could be exciting; you might even feel that adrenaline rush as you sit down to write the first few pages. But before you go any further, you need to collect and fact-check some data to make your book as accurate as it could be. And that’s where doing book research comes in.
If you are a first-time author who doesn’t know where to start, then this article is for you! Here you’ll find everything you need to know about how to do research for your coming book.
Why Do Writers Need to Do Book Research?
While you as an author might be knowledgeable enough about the topic you’re writing about, doing thorough book research is still a necessity. This comes down to two main reasons:
- You want to make the information mentioned in your books more credible so you add citations and sources.
- You don’t have all the information you need to complete the book.
How Long Should Book Research Take?
The duration of your book research mainly depends on two factors:
- What you are writing about, and
- Your knowledge about the topic.
If you are an expert on your book’s subject matter, you might need little to no research at all. Still, fact-checking as you write will give your book more credibility; just don’t let it hinder you from the actual writing process.
What Are the Phases of Doing Book Research?
The thing about book research is that although it helps speed the writing process, it might take a while. To make the process much easier, quicker, and more efficient, you can divide it into four phases:
- Planning the research, and that’s when you decide on the points that you want to find out more about.
- Doing the research and collecting the information you need.
- Sorting the information and data you’ve found.
- Evaluating this information to decide if it is enough or if you need to do more research.
Tips and Tricks for Doing Book Research
Now that you have an idea of why you need to do book research, let’s get into the details of how to do it. Even though there isn’t one right way to go about it, the tips we provide here will definitely help! So take a look at these hacks and apply what best suits you.
1. Set Up an Organized Plan
The first step in conducting successful research is to have a proper plan that will save you time and effort. Having a plan also gives you an idea of the time you’ll be consuming on your research.
In order to make a successful plan, you need to have an outline for the ideas you’ll write about. This will make your research process more efficient as it’ll help you pinpoint the kind of data you need and where there might be any information gaps. You also have to keep in mind who your audience is, as the information you present in your book will depend hugely on whom you are addressing.
2. Check Different Types of Resources
The internet has a plethora of resources for you to explore that can spark your imagination and help you get the additional information you need. Here are a few places that are worth checking out:
- Books: Your first and most valuable source is, of course, books. You can learn and research many things from them such as the authors’ writing style and how to deliver information clearly. They can also open a door to many other resources that could be extracted from them, such as citations and reference lists.
And if you need more similar resources, you can search for other works by the same author or authors who have similar books to the one you’re reading.
- YouTube: You can find many types of videos on YouTube such as documentaries, autobiographies, tutorials, guides, podcasts, and many more. There are, however, some downsides to Youtube that might hinder you a bit with your search. Some videos might be just clickbait and don’t give you the information you are looking for. Others might be too long that it takes a while until you reach the segment with the information you need.
- Question and Answers Websites: Another place that’s worth checking is websites where people ask questions about the ideas you have, such as Quora, Answers.com, and Ask a Librarian. Some other authors might have had the same topic to research and needed help. So, surprisingly, you might find good recommendations from people there.
But what if you can’t find what you’re looking for? You can post your questions on those websites and you’ll be surprised by the amount of new and interesting information you’ll find from other people’s replies.
- Scholarly Publications: Reputable sources like scholarly publications can really help with your research because they are usually well-written and informative. And you can find all the citations inside. They can be in the formats of journals, theses, dissertations, or autobiographies.
You can find these resources using Google Scholar or other .edu domains. Remember, however, to double-check the author’s credentials as some of the resources found there could be essays published by first-year college students.
- News and Magazines Articles: There are many reputable magazines in various fields where articles are published by researchers and scientists. You can also find news pieces written by experts and journalists that can provide great data for your book. But just like scholarly publications, make sure that these articles are written by accredited writers.
- Statistics and Surveys Websites: Sometimes you have the right information but you just need to back it up with numbers and figures. That’s where statistics and survey websites come in; they allow you to search for any topic and provide you with the data you need.
You can use websites like Google’s Data Search and Statista, or you can start your own survey (using survey creation websites like Google Forms and Survey Monkey) and get as many people to answer it as you can.
- Field Trips: It’s often said that nothing equals first-hand experience, and this isn’t totally wrong. Sometimes you might need to be physically present in certain places to collect the data you need. For example, if you are writing about Indian cuisine, it’s a good idea to go to India and taste the food made by its people. This will give your writing so much depth and authenticity.
3. Seek Others’ Expertise
Seeking the help of experts can assist a lot with the research process. These experts could be other writers who can give you valuable tips or sources to use in your research. Or they can be specialists in the field you are writing about who know exactly the answers you need.
If you are writing a romantic renaissance novel, for example, you don’t just need to know about relationships. Talking to a historian who specializes in that era can help in bringing your story to life, as they provide you with all the details might not know about.
4. Stay Focused
As a writer, you need as few distractions as possible to be able to complete your tasks. You need to focus on the main goals of your research so you don’t end up with useless ideas. This can happen because sometimes as you’re researching a certain topic, you may come across other unrelated yet interesting materials that lead you astray. That’s why it’s essential to stick to the main points of your planned outline.
5. Set a Deadline
If you are prone to procrastination, you might use research as a way to delay the actual writing process. One thing that will keep you on track is setting a deadline for yourself so the research process doesn’t take longer than it should.
The amount of information out there is endless, and you can go on researching forever. So when your deadline approaches, just make sure you have just enough data that supports your book argument; you don’t need to overload your readers with irrelevant facts.
6. Use the Right Keywords
When searching online, it is important to use the right keywords in your search engine to get the desired search results. You want to get as accurate results as possible because using vague words will only result in finding unrelated sources. Instead, narrow down your search by being as specific as you can.
For example, if you are searching for “medieval names”, you’ll probably get thousands of results that might leave you confused. Narrow down your options by specifying the gender and location. Try searching for “medieval German male names,” which will give you much better results if that’s what you were looking for in the first place.
You can also use other online search hacks that will help you get the desired results fasters.
7. Stay Organized
Make sure you’re writing down your research results while you’re researching so you don’t lose any ideas. You can do this by bookmarking your findings on your browser, printing and keeping them in an actual folder on your desk, or by using digital notebooks like Evernote or OneNote. Having all your resources in one place will make the writing process way easier later on.
As you organize your resources, make sure to collect the following information about each one. This will make it easier to get back to them whenever you need:
- Author’s name
- Date of publication
- Name of the book or article
- Hyperlink or page number
- Where this information was found (website name or publisher)
8. Outsource If Possible
The research process could be daunting for some authors. That’s why outsourcing this process could be a better idea as you focus on writing instead. But you don’t want to hire anyone for the job; they should be knowledgeable in the topic or field that you are writing about. You can use websites like Fivver or Upwork to hire a freelancer who would do the job for you.
9. Start Writing Your Draft
Now that you have the information you need, start writing your first draft. As you write, you may discover that you’re missing some pieces of information, and it’s totally fine. Just make sure you finish writing the draft first before going back to researching; otherwise, you’ll lose time and focus. Some writers even finish their first draft before doing any research at all; so do whatever works best for you.
To make it easier for you to find the missing information later, here are some techniques to use while writing:
- Use the abbreviation “TK” in place of the missing information. It stands for “to come” and can be easily found in the document using Ctrl+F, as no other word in the English language has these 2 letters consecutively.
- Highlight the parts with missing information in red so you could easily spot them.
- If you’re using Google docs, Microsoft Word, or any other word processing tool to write your draft, you can add comments on the side for the parts where you need to do some extra research.
Conducting book research can be very tricky and tiring, but having the right tools and knowing a few tricks will save you a lot of time and effort. The main key is to be patient and explore different resources. And always remember to remain organized so you don’t lose track of all the data you’ve collected.