As many freelance writers know, writing a deep and comprehensive article usually takes hours of conscientious research. This is especially true when the writer is producing articles for a website content service that requires in-depth or niche content. At times many writers will have to dig very deep to find the appropriate resources and deliver accurate and timely information, and some may wish to cut corners by using whatever resources they can find. However, no matter how desperate a freelance writer gets for new information there are a few resources that a freelance writer should never use.
Many freelance writers today consider Wikipedia an authoritative resource but there are a few good reasons why a writer should never use Wikipedia. Wikipedia articles can be written and modified by anyone, and this means that the information may not always be accurate. The information is also sometimes biased. However, the most compelling reason not to use Wikipedia is simply because a writer does not have to. Writers can follow the source links at the bottom of every Wikipedia article to find authoritative resources that are fact checked and peer reviewed. Wikipedia can be an excellent way to find these resources, but it should not be used as a resource in itself.
Freelance writers that use About.com heavily will find that they are simply not producing valuable content. This is because About.com articles rely heavily on internet searches for the bulk of their information. About.com articles usually don’t cite their resources properly, either, which means that a freelance writer cannot verify any information within it. Freelance writers that use About.com for their information form a sort of Mobius closed loop system in which all freelance writers begin regurgitating the same information without any known source or verification.
3. Message Boards
Message boards and other anecdotal reports should never be used for information, regardless of the way in which the information is presented. There are message boards that post regular news articles and excerpts but without going directly to the source the freelance writer has no way of knowing if these articles have been modified by the posters. Freelance writers that find valuable information on message boards need to go back to the original sources for verification. This also applies to user-generated answer websites such as Ask.com.
4. SEO Sites
Freelance writers today need to be extremely careful about inadvertently using sources that appear reputable but actually aren’t. There are many websites today that appear to be journals or news publications but are actually entirely fictitious. These websites are used for search engine optimization purposes and keyword bombing. A close perusal of these websites will show that all the articles are geared to a specific purpose. While freelance writers may very well find themselves writing these articles, they should do their best not to cite them as resources.
Many freelance writers, especially when they have been in the business for a long time, will find themselves writing off-the-cuff articles that rely on their own internalized knowledge. This may significantly speed up the research process, but it is dangerous for many reasons. Many freelance writers that use themselves as a primary source may not realize that their knowledge is flawed or that the topic has changed significantly since they last researched it. They may also find themselves repeating prior articles too closely because they are simply repeating things they have already done. It is very important for freelance writers to do unique research on their articles even if they feel they know the topic very well.
Research is often considered the least fun component to freelance writing, but it doesn’t have to be a headache. Once a freelance writer gets into the habit of finding and using authoritative sources they will find that it becomes much easier to get the information they need faster. They will also find themselves writing content that is far more fulfilling and valuable.
Jenna I is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.