Research Tools Every Writer Needs

TVWriter™ has found a new website that we think every writer should know about. It’s called Aerogramme Writers’ Studio (no, we don’t know why – yet), and it’s chock full of info like this:


by Kelly Gardiner

‘Do research. Feed your talent. Research not only wins the war on cliché, it’s the key to victory over fear and its cousin, depression.’ – Robert McKee, Story

All writers need research. Whether you’re writing a memoir based largely on your own life, a story set in a neighbourhood you know well, a fantasy in a created universe, or a feature article, research can add depth, verisimilitude, and those telling details that further plot or character.

I write historical fiction, which involves more research than some other forms – luckily, I love the process of imagining, seeking, finding, interrogating and then integrating (or not) material that helps me populate an imagined past and draw its people.

So here are a few things I’ve learned that can help you, no matter what form your writing takes.

Find, don’t search

It seems so easy to look stuff up, doesn’t it? A quick Google search, and there’s a world of information at your fingertips. But is it what you really want, and is it any good?

Some tips on searching well: first, start with a broad query then refine it. You can add extra words to it if they are useful refinements, but don’t just keep adding terms. Think about what material you want to find. Who would write that? Try to imagine the words they would use to describe it. A good example is health information. If you want to see results from a whole lot of health forums on which people discuss their symptoms, use common words. If you want to read informed medical advice, search using terms a doctor or medico might use.

If you’re having trouble, you can limit your search query by using inverted commas. For example, if you want to look up a quote or a line from a poem, try putting quote marks around it, like this: “Feed your talent” – if you just type feed your talent, you’ll get results with the word feed or the word talent. You only want results with both words, and in that order. Inverted commas make it much easier to find titles of books or specific concepts. You can also limit your search to a specific site of general web domain – just type your keywords then site: and the domain, eg site:gov – or file type, eg  type:pdf.

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