Preparing To Write A Credible Article: How To Effectively Research Your Topic

When it keeps piling up in front of you
When it keeps piling up in front of you | Source

Planning And Creating A Foundation

Writing takes more than skill, good grammar and impressive phrases. Keyword searches and how to maximize traffic sources is copiously searched and reported. Though, commonly left out is the need for information accuracy. Documenting facts can be a passing thought for those of us that write off the cusp about common knowledge or fictional writers.

Often research is left to those that write non-fictional material, though getting a better hold on any subject could lead a writer to study a particular subject. Not to mention some customers may require an expert opinion and thereby may send you exploring a book or five.

Remember whatever you write becomes your credibility and a name that will follow only you. Think about what imprint you intend to leave on the web or in the world in fact. Some may care and then there are those that don’t. It will not take long for you to be thrown in one of those piles. So if you intend on being taken seriously it is important to have well laid out quality written pieces.

“Research is defined as diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc."

(dictionary.com)

Finding A Topic

Topics are a huge fuss and the basis of any written material. Planning an approach tactic is very important and can lead to either a very successful piece of work or something less desirable.

Settling on topics and subtopics before the writing process begins allows for easy organization of material. Once the research process ensues other subtopics may become relevant and thereby can be easily added.

Your Position Or Viewpoint

Certainly regurgitating old information will be no help to you or anyone, though putting a new spin on old information may be the viewpoint you have been looking for. Moving in a direction your own may look like a few stats throughout the article or a quote from a famous person that fits in well with what you are covering and then going off the cusp capturing a new perspective. Simply said, the finished product may be a fresh new look at old information.

One of my personal researched pieces is about schizophrenia. This mental health disorder has been widely studied and documented. I too have done countless hours of combing high and low through information as it pertains to schizophrenia. Though, a huge part of my research relied on my own information and a good hunch about how these individuals were treated by inpatient staff when in a mental hospital. That was my new look at old information with a brand spanking new viewpoint. Yes schizophrenia has been focused on greatly in the mental health world but little research to date is interested in the patient directly. So I did my own research and documented the findings.

What Are Good Sources

All right we have arrived to the point of this article. Sources pop up all around us when we do an online search. Type a term in Google identifying your main topic and watch the results blast right in your face. Let the flooding begin.

But what information is trustworthy? Finding the expert of the field is a great place to start. Something like knowing Stephen King would be a great resource on how to write horror fiction novels. Doing research on your topic should take the same approach. Find out how others have reported on your topic in the past. Look for sites that may regulate the subject you are writing about. For example, many of my articles relate to mental health, therefore, I know I can trust government sites such as National Alliance for Mental Illness or American Psychology Association. Trying to find government regulated sites or ones that have some regulated standard for posted information. Also, using peer reviewed journals and other material that may be found in online library sources prove to contain reliable data.

As a real life example, I thought to put in a search term and record the results as a method to my madness and show how I distinguish against the credible and unreliable sources.

I typed in the word – schizophrenia.

The top five results were National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Wikipedia, Mayo Clinic, Psychcentral.com, and Helpguide.org.

Out of the top results Wikipedia would be immediately thrown out. I would then look at the other four sources and make a determination in regard to the consistency of information related to my topic and subtopics. However, in my mind I would heavily rely on the information provided from NIMH as they have been a reliable resource for me in the past.

How often do you research a topic before writing?

See results without voting

What Are Bad Sources

Well before I mention this site I am sure you can all read my mind and I just used it above. First and foremost, do not use Wikipedia with the hopes of finding accurate information. The reason I stand behind that statement is Wikipedia allows the general public to make additions and changes to the sites plethora of information without specific regulations. Therefore, you can imagine the accuracy of information. It is like playing the game telephone line where one person tells a phrase to the person standing next to them and then it is repeated down the line. By the time the expression reaches the last person you better believe the phrase is something all its own and not how it started. That is my idea of Wikipedia.

Also, do not heavily rely on personal blogs or other personal websites. Other forum type websites are not the most reliable either. So any site that does not regulate their information, the best practice is avoid those sites. Avoid overly promotional sites that seem to be selling a product or out to gain business. Other ways to recognize an unworthy site are those that have grammar or structural errors. If the site does not pose the highest standards of quality then likely their information will follow.

Source

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

It has been said for many years, do not believe everything you hear and/or read. As defined above, the term research implies the need to investigate. Therefore, prepping and planning consists of looking at various angles while gathering information. So writing an article must take a hands on approach mentality. It takes time to prepare before you write.

We have all read articles and scratched our head in wonder about where they found their evidence. Often despite taking a new angle, the information that has no basis for their accusations.

Again I cannot say it enough, your name is attached to everything you write so wouldn’t it be nice to be referred to as a trustworthy person who no matter the article title has well researched work.

Short Articles Vs. Research Papers

There is quantity and then there is quality of information all among us.

A short article intended to explain self-help tools or one that would be appropriate for Hubpages the research may not be as fulsome as what is required for a research paper. Short article research may rely on quick facts found in statistics or defining a term.

Research commonly revolves around the need of the author to drive home a particular point of view. With that in mind research articles tend to differ from an opinionated or self-help article. A research article uses a particular methodology that is unlike other styles of writing. In this case it may be apparent to use data reported from other peer-reviewed journals to help solidify and validate your stance. When writing a research article the reader will be interested in the time taken to explore the topic and will use your sources to either authenticate or discount your efforts.

Power With Numbers

It seems that most things in life are more powerful in higher numbers and quantities. Writing falls within those same principles. When writing about previously researched facts it is recommended to have no less than three sources. As the word count increases so should the sources. I say no less than three because finding two sources is quite easy, but being able to add another source will help to add value to your article.

Recommended Amount Sources

Article Length (words)
# of Sources
100-1000
3
1001-5000
5
5001-10000
10
10000+
unlimited but more than 10

Final Thoughts

Well planned out articles demonstrate and reflect high quality authorship. These are worthy pieces of information that will likely get you writing gigs and possible expert status. Writing for a living or as a pleasurable past time is a craft. Perfecting that act will produce fruits in many ways. Having well planned out and researched articles will offer results to be proud of.

The plan starts with a topic and developed subtopics. Research the chosen direction meant for your article. Lastly put it all together. Voila – not quite yet, don’t forget to edit and correctly site your sources.

Happy writing.

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24 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great points made, Michelle. I'm a lazy researcher, so I usually stay away from topics that require me to research. LOL Seriously...I'm terrible at it. If I should ever go down this path, I'll remember your words of advice.

Have a great Sunday!


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Researching topics can be quite tedious if not annoying, especially when looking for something specific. Most of what you write I find that you are the expert in that area and may not need research. Also, you do well by identifying when you are speaking from opinion at the outset of your articles. Have a great day!!


John Messingham profile image

John Messingham 2 years ago from East Kilbride, Scotland

Nice hub. Although I cannot remember you popping round to take the photo of my office.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Good morning John. Thanks for the comment. That picture reminds me of what happens when I start my own research, guess I am not alone with my madness :)


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Great advice here! Being I write a lot of non-fiction hubs about my personal experiences, I do not research a lot. However, when writing on important health-related hubs, where I may add scientific research to verify information, I will do research, even if the article is about my personal experience with such health issue.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thanks Theresa for the comment. You are absolutely right, researching brief information to add validity to your article is truly helpful.


word55 profile image

word55 2 years ago from Chicago

This is a great tool to the writing process. It helps to do a thorough research of the topic. It makes one a better writer. Thank you mdscoggins!


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thanks for the comment word55.


lambservant profile image

lambservant 2 years ago from Pacific Northwest

Great helpful information and tips. Sometimes I really love to research, and other times I detest it. But like you said, finding credible sources is very important. I recently wrote an article on ten great songs about friendship. I decided to do something more unique with this type of article. Rather than give a short synopsis of each song with a few kudos, I decided to tell the stories behind the songs, such as what was the inspiration of the songwriters when they decided to write the song. I can't tell you how much research went into that article. I decided to start with interviews of the songwriters and artists. I found one cool site called "song facts" which is a site that gives such information and the interviews with the artists. There were a few other good sites or just some random ones. Sometimes I found interviews on YouTube so I could add those videos if I wanted. It was so much fun, because it wasn't a dry topic, but something that hugely interested me. So research ought to be on topics that interest the writer. It makes it less tedious and boring.

I have written many articles on mental health as well and I use all the sources you cited, except Wikipedia of course. The more you research, the better you get at it. Great job here.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Hi Lori thanks for the comment. I really like how you mention that a researched article can be very interesting and not boring. So many times technical articles are very dry and boring. Yet you used a creative topic to insert the facts where needed and creativity to fill in the rest, great approach :)


sheilamyers 2 years ago

This is all very good advice. I've read many webpages that definitely have not been been well-researched and the information there can be very misleading. Like you, I stick with information obtained from reputable sources for what topic I'm researching. I do occasionally quote Wikimedia, but only for basic definitions.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thanks Sheila for the comment. I have on occasion used Wikipedia though only to reinforce already known or searched knowledge, not as the only source. Have a great day :)


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 2 years ago from Philippines

Your information is very helpful in understanding the importance of research to creative writing. I liked how you separated credible sources from sources that are not credible. Also, your table of number of words and number of sources is truly valuable. Placing this on my pinterest account.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Hi Mona and thanks for the comment and share. I hope that more people look toward reporting factual information in a credible manner. Have a great day :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Just an excellent article!


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thanks Audrey for the comment :)


heidithorne profile image

heidithorne 2 years ago from Chicago Area

Excellent advice for online writers! Voted up, useful and sharing!


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thanks Heidi for the recognition and sharing :)


newjerusalem profile image

newjerusalem 2 years ago from India

Excellent tips. You've really done a great job. I hope this will be helpful for many to write research article effectively.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thanks Victor for the comment. I surely hope this article can be useful, have a great day.


Tricia Deed 2 years ago

Good suggestions. I enjoy research but it is important that it be as accurate as possible.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thank you Tricia. Yes if you like research I am sure you have found how to distinguish between credible work and work that starts with another 'c' word :) Have a great day.


firstday profile image

firstday 2 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

Add Your Comment…Great post… this will help me.


mdscoggins profile image

mdscoggins 2 years ago from Fresno, CA Author

Thanks firstday for the recognition. Happy writing :)

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