Michelangelo sensed the life trapped inside a solid block of marble and liberated his David from the stone. Research, like Michelangelo’s chisel, chips away lifeless surface material to reveal the ideas buried deep within a topic. Research transforms the unknown into the familiar so you can tackle new subjects. Research invites the authority and credibility of experts into your writing.
Solid research is vital because it yields the knowledge you need to write with confidence, build trust with your audience, and dig out the big ideas that get readers (and editors) excited.
When you write about familiar subjects, especially from personal experience, you write with the comfort of knowledge. If you’re willing to learn, you can write confidently about any subject, even when you know nothing about that subject. It simply takes time, patience, and careful research.
Research is a voyage of discovery stopping at many ports of call along the way. As you learn more and more, as you immerse yourself in your research, your confidence (and enthusiasm) will grow. When you’re ready to begin writing the first draft, you might be surprised at how much you’ve learned and how much you’ve enjoyed your journey of discovery. If we wrote only from personal experience, we’d run out of material quickly. When you embrace research as a writing tool you expand your horizons and become a more confident writer.
Research not only builds knowledge and confidence, it adds credibility that establishes a bond of trust with your readers. One of the best ways to firm up your authority as a writer is with specifics that you uncover in your research.
Suppose you were writing an article on the impact of baby boomer retirement on the economy. Your piece will have more depth when you use history to bolster your argument by showing how the boomers influenced the economy when they were kids in the 1950s. Mattell cornered the toy market in the 50s is too general and dull. Get specific and breathe life into your article with something like this instead. Mattell launched the Barbie doll, the best selling toy in history in 1959.
Give your readers something to chew on. When you talk about how the boomers are likely to affect our economy you could introduce them this way: The oldest boomers are turning 62 this year and they have a lot of money to spend. True, but generalities like these won’t do much for your credibility or reader attention.
Instead, pull in an outside source and use specifics to hold reader interest. The oldest boomers are turning 62 this year, at the rate of more than 300 each hour and according to a CNBC special report released in September, 2006, they spend $2 trillion each year. Specific facts uncovered in your research can increase believability and lend real credibility to your article.
Research today is easy, maybe too easy. With the Internet at your fingertips a search for any topic on the web will likely give you hundreds of hits.
But most of your hits will offer the same or similar surface scratching information. Stop there and your article will be like dozens of others. Why would someone want to read yours?
Dig deeper to unearth the gem(s) that most other writers overlook. Go beyond the obvious. Look for clues that can lead you to the big idea, the angle that will make your article stand out from the crowd. Suppose you’re researching an article on Vitamin D. All the other writers are talking about stronger bones and osteoporosis, but by digging deeper, you discover that researchers are reporting that Vitamin D can prevent cancer. Vitamin D and cancer is old news now but there’s a writer out there who found it first. It could be you next time.
Always research before you write. When confronted with an unfamiliar subject, research opens new worlds and helps you grow as a writer. Research substitutes confidence and credibility for uncertainty and failure. Even the familiar takes on new life when you chisel away the ordinary and discover the buried treasure. Your readers will thank you and editors will sit up and take notice.