For conducting proper research, it is important to figure out what exactly you need to learn. Previously, I’ve used the example of a crime scene investigation. Given that you have no idea about how it’s done in real life, you obviously need to research this issue; however, does it mean you must read through tons of works on criminology? I think it doesn’t. Instead, it means you should narrow your scope down to a specific subject which is of interest to you–in our case, it’s a procedure of a detailed examination of a scene where a crime was committed. So, the first condition of any successful research process is to refine your search inquiry.
However, knowing the exact subject is not enough yet. What exactly do you think you should know to create credible descriptions? You should have a sort of a list of questions in your head (or better on paper), answering which would solve specific tasks within your writing. For example, when an inspector arrives to the aforementioned crime scene, the possible questions might look like the following:
- Who is usually present at a crime scene? Policemen? What do they do, what are their duties?
- What are the procedures usually conducted? What tools do policemen and detectives use, if any?
- How does a typical crime scene look like? All those chalk lines, police lines, cordons, numbering and evidence markings – how does it all happen?
- What do detectives pay attention to? How do/should they behave at a crime scene? What are their duties? When do forensics come (if needed?)
And so on, and so on. And now imagine yourself trying to describe a crime scene without knowing the answers to these (or similar) questions.
Finally, you must identify the sources you will need for your research. Depending on your topic, they can be different; the only advice I’d like to give here is you should not put too much trust in various commercial projects, be it websites, books, or magazines. Internet resources with .gov or .edu in their names are the most credible; also, you should put the most trust in journals and books published by organizations majoring in your subject of interest.
Well, basically, this is it! Research isn’t hard; on the contrary, it can be exciting, as you can learn something new, broaden your outlook, and improve as a writer while doing it.
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