Do Your Research, but Not Too Much

Research can be a great source of ideas. It can also be a huge time sink. If you’re doing research solely for a single blog post, set a limit on your time. Decide when you will stop researching and start writing. For most blog posts, an hour or two should be plenty. Then stop and work with what you have. You’re writing a blog post, not a book.

Well, maybe you are writing a book. That’s a whole other issue.

If you’re studying a complex topic that requires more time to fully understand, then consider writing multiple posts about it.

studying research writing
Photo by Mikhail Lavrenov • freeimages.com

Let’s also look at this from another angle. If there’s research you need to do to succeed or stay current in your business, consider blogging about it. If you were going to do the research anyway, you might as well get a blog post, or several, out of it.

As for writing a book, Nina Amir literally wrote the book about blogging a book. The short version is that you can write sections of your book in blog-post-size bits, and post them to your website. Then when it’s all written, you edit the posts into a blog. This is an effective technique that lets you build an audience as you write the book.

I have to say that blogging a book is not recommended for fiction. But for nonfiction, it’s a great tactic.

Use reliable sources

Don’t rely on Wikipedia for anything you stake your reputation on. There’s just no way of knowing when it’s wrong.

Wikipedia is useful for giving yourself a foundation of knowledge to build on. At the bottom each article is a list of links to other sources. Use those as the basis of your research rather than the Wikipedia article. Websites ending in .edu are university sites and are reliable as they usually carefully curate their content.

If you’re interviewing someone, be sure to check their references to establish their expertise. Plan your questions out ahead of time to make best use of the interviewee’s time. Consider recording, either with a computer or phone or digital recorder, but remember to let people know you’re recording.

Avoid research paralysis. Consider whether all the information you need is already in your head. Write the first draft based on what you know, then fill in gaps from research and notes. One of the reasons research slows people down is that the more you study, the more you realize how little you know. Don’t let that stop you. You don’t need to know everything. You just need to know enough to educate your readers. The more complex the topic, the more likely you are to want to keep digging. Stop. Share what you’ve learned so far.

If you are still inspired to keep digging, you can always write more later.

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