Are you planning to write a nonfiction book? Well, unless all the material you need is tucked neatly inside your head, you will need to carry out research.
Robust research provides depth and credibility to your work. And, in fact, nonfiction authors (successful ones, at least), usually spend 30 – 40% of their time conducting research.
So, the question is this: What research options are there available?
The worldwide web
The most obvious place to start is the internet. Since becoming open to the public in 1991, the ‘worldwide web’ has become a truly ‘bottomless well’ of information — there are now over one billion websites globally.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the internet is finding the right information. Search engines, like Google, do a pretty decent job of separating the ‘wheat from the chaff’;however, it pays to know some tricks.
Narrowing your search
One way to find relevant material more easily is to frame your search inquiry with quotation marks. For example, “how to research a book.” By doing this, you tell the search engine to display only results that include the words within the quotation marks.
You’ll still often get irrelevant content, though. For example, If you want tips for researching a nonfiction book, “How to research a fantasy fiction book” includes the right words but is still not what you’re looking for.
To narrow your search further, you can eliminate the words “fantasy” and “fiction” by adding commas and minus signs like so: “How to research a fantasy fiction book”, -fantasy, -fiction.
If you still can’t find what you seek, try Google Books, which contains digitised versions of physical books.
To uncover the best material, you will often have to swim outside the familiar waters of Google.
“Google is not a synonym for research“— Dan Brown, American novelist
Like most of us, Dr. Chris Naughton of Academic Services turns to Google as the ‘first point of call’ when researching a project. To dig deeper, though, he says other databases, such as those of universities and public libraries, are invaluable.
“They use different algorithms to search engines like Google, which means you can really narrow your search,” he says.
Dr. Naughton points out that librarians, particularly at academic institutions, often have specialised knowledge and can provide useful guidance with searches.
It is important to note that information found online or in libraries is secondary; someone else has done the ‘hard yards’, and people have already read it.
This secondary information is valuable for supporting your ideas, but to make a real impact, you must bring something ‘new to the table.’
If you are an expert in your field, you can draw from your own experience. Alternatively, interviewing others is a way to gain fresh insight — business leaders, politicians, customers; you name it.
“Without a doubt, with nonfiction, you need to rely on more than just the internet,” says Ocean Reeve of Ocean Reeve Publishing.
If you’re working on a book for the general market and you haven’t got success stories and case studies to support your reasoning, then you’re speaking in the middle of the woods with no one listening because no one cares.”
Australian-based Ocean Reeve says liquid networks are a way to tap into other people’s expertise. Now, he is not talking about ‘chewing the fat’ at after-work ‘drinkies.’ Rather, Ocean explains that liquid networks are composed of individuals with compatible expertise and experience.
“Shouting through the megaphone that is a liquid network can be game-changing.”—Ocean Reeve
Ocean gives this example:
“I’ve got an author who is writing a book about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She got assaulted; it took her a long time to get over it, and she used alcohol as a crutch to help block everything out.
I have another author from New Zealand who is ex-military. PTSD in soldiers is massive, and the suicide rate over in Australia is enormous, so he’s been a very strong advocate to ensure the issue is addressed.
Individually, they both have their personal perspectives, but together, by shouting through the megaphone that is a liquid network, they will be game-changing.”
Ocean isn’t talking about co-authoring. Instead, he says by sharing expertise and experiences with others within their liquid network, both authors can add different perspectives to their own books to create a more rounded reading experience.
Here is a quote by American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald: “To write it, it took three months; to conceive it, three minutes; to collect the data in it — all my life.”
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