Blog by Toby Welch

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Wrangling Research

How to do research has become a conundrum in the modern era. All too often writers just do a little surfing online and think their research is done. Wrong! It is vital you consider the source of the information.

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When researching, the Internet is a great starting point. It can fill in dead spots about whatever you are writing about. It can help narrow the focus of your piece. But the red caution flag needs to be flung into your face if you are looking to the Net for reliable data. Only if the website is an extremely reputable one (like many government sites, for example, or the Mayo Clinic site for health-related information) should you consider the data safe to use. Even then, getting verification from another source is recommended.

Where the Internet is more valuable when researching is when you are tracking down the people that will have the accurate information. Looking for data on the necessity of honey bees, don't take information found on a hobbyist website as gospel. Go online and research who the reputable honey bee experts are and track them down to get your facts straight. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone or send an email to an expert to get the data you need.

Books are another research tool. Ones written by experts in the field you are writing about are the ideal choice.

When your editor calls to ask your source for a detail about gambling, he won't be impressed if you said you found it on a blog post by some random college kid. Researching is all about unearthing factual information that will hold up under scrutiny.