Here are 7 research tips for both researchers and writers, whether you want to profile the character in your novel or find statistics to inform plot decisions.
1. Use ‘Boolean Logic,’ which uses the terms AND, OR, and NOT to streamline your search. For example:
You might want to know about fiction AND prose NOT non-fiction.
You might want to know about fiction OR stories OR tales.
The Boolean terms of AND, OR, and NOT allow you to take account of words that might have the same meaning, therefore making your search more rigorous. It also allows you to exclude words that might generate information you don’t want.
2. Use quotation marks to ensure your search uses the exact terminology you ask it to.
e.g. search for “fiction” AND “prose” NOT “non-fiction”
3. Take into consideration different spellings when defining your search criteria. For example:
You might want to search for “behaviour” AND “behavior” in order to ensure you generate information from England and the USA.
4. Use systematic reviews and meta-analyses to inform your writing decisions.
Systematic reviews have done all of the research for you and created a report based on the key evidence.
Meta-analyses have also done all of the research for you, but have also used statistical analysis to support the findings.
5. If you need up to date information, confine your search to a certain time period (e.g. 2005 onwards). This will save you time wading through piles of irrelevant information.
Research databases, such as Googlar Scholar and PubMed provide an option to restrict your search by date.
6. When you find a useful source of information, note the keywords used for that publication so that you can use them to locate further useful information.
Research involves continually improving and redefining your search criteria to help you gain the best ‘hits.’
7. ENJOY YOURSELF!
Some people find research a daunting process, but it can be one of the most enjoyable parts of the writing process. Indeed, it can be fundamental to shaping a successful publication!