How Much Research Is Too Much?
Whether we’re writing content for an assignment or our personal work, we want to present our best freelance writing. This is a very good thing–until we get in our own way! One predicament that all writers face is making sure we have the most current information available. Research is unavoidable in most cases, whether we’re looking up cultural information for a work of fiction or a company’s background for a press release, and is especially embedded in ghost writing services wherein the author must assume the voice and knowledge of someone else.
The truth is that we have more data and information readily available than ever before in history, and access becomes easier and faster with each technological advance. The torrent is rather overwhelming. We can saturate ourselves in research, spending all our time climbing through mountains of websites and searching for hidden gems in caves. We hunt for that one gold nugget which will make our writing the most valuable prose ever carved onto a page by a keyboard. But this makes for a very long journey.
Albeit enriching, immersing ourselves too much takes our eye off the goal. We face deadlines, limited word counts, client objectives and life beyond the words. We might come away with enough information to win an entire Jeopardy category and make for an interesting conversation at our next social event, but an article that should have taken us two hours to write has now taken four, five or six hours (depending on our interest in the subject matter). In addition, we can wander off the path entirely; one subject can lead us to another area of personal interest. We figure, “Since I’m here anyway, I can take a minute or two to study. There might be a future article in this.” Now we have stepped into our own way and blocked ourselves with information overload.
So how do we know when we have researched enough? The first clue is determining whether we are choosing research over writing. There is a moment when we say to ourselves, “Just one more site, then I will begin writing.” This is too much. If we continue this line of thinking, we enter the “way too much” arena.
How do we avoid “too much?” To begin with, we must focus on the objective and use discipline to stay on task. We can quickly jot down notes along the way, allowing us to revisit areas of interest at a later time.
In addition, we have to be dedicated clock watchers and make ourselves aware of the time we are spending. How many times do we glance at a clock in the midst of gathering information only to realize that hours have passed without us knowing, and we haven’t written a single word? To avoid this dilemma, we need to set the parameters before we begin researching. This includes presetting time and depth estimates and sticking to them. We must keep in mind that it is impossible to know everything about every subject.
In the end, it isn’t about the quantity of time we spend on research; rather, it is all about writing quality content.
Elizabeth N is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.