Research: love it or hate it, blog writers have to research information. Research is the substrate on which all white papers, data sheets and case studies are built, of course, but solid research also gives web pages, FAQs and blogs solid ground. Even opinion pieces should include some verifiable facts or quotes to make them interesting and sharable.
Even if you already know everything there is to know about a subject, it is always worthwhile to perform a little research. The world changes rapidly – scientific breakthroughs are always updating our understanding of facts and policies seem to change in the blink of an eye. Performing a little research with every project makes sure you are stating accurate facts and have the most recent information available.
Providing well-researched information creates a sharable blog, article or FAQ. It also brings value to a written work by giving the readers information they can use to discuss the topic at hand or cite in other conversations. In other words, your research makes other people smarter. It also makes the client look like a “thought leader” in the industry.
But where do you begin?
How to Perform Blog Research
Determine the specific information you want to research
Read the project description carefully for clues about which information the client wants you to find. Use other available information, such as the client website and list of keywords provided in the project description, to guide your investigation.
Be sure to take note of specific directions – “incidence” means the number of new instances of something, for example, while “prevalence” indicates how widespread something is. The difference in a client’s project description can be subtle but important.
Develop a short list of facts or phrases you wish to research
Posing the list as questions sometimes helps. Start with “How many people does this currently affect?” or “How often does this happen?”
Do a search with your favorite search engine
You can find information on nearly any topic by simply doing an internet search using the list of facts and phrases you developed earlier. Use your favorite search engine – there are at least 12 alternatives to Google, according to Search Engine Watch, and as many as 9 percent of web users opt for one of these alternatives. These alternatives include Bing, DuckDuckGo and StartPage. Use Baidu if you have a special interest in digital Asia and Yandex if you are interested in Russia. If hard-core research is what you need, try Google Scholar.
Not finding what you need? Consider rephrasing your search terms. You can also modify the terms of your search, such as the date of publication or restricting the results to news stories, images, videos and more.
Use trade magazines and websites
There are hundreds of trade magazines and countless websites dedicated to specific industries. WebWire provides a list of trade magazines and news stories by industry. ScienceDaily is a great source for the latest news in scientific research, while MedicalNewsToday, 2 Minute Medicine and Medscape offer the latest in medical research results.
Verify the fact with another credible information source. One of the best ways to do this is to paste the information into a Google search and assess the results. If you cannot find any other sources to back up the fact, or if the sources seem dubious, the fact may not be true.
Use quality sources
Consider the publisher and author of the resource. You can often paste the author’s name into a search engine and verify his or her credentials. Use information produced by “blue chip” publishers with names that you recognize, such as Mayo Clinic or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Certain organizations and educational institutions, such as universities, are also good sources – be sure to look for websites with the .org and .edu extensions. Government websites have a .gov extension, and are good sources of information.
Use several sources
The more sources you can reference, the more facts and points of view you can consider and present to your readers. In many cases, offering a well-source opposing viewpoint can actually support your work.
The correct use of quotations is essential in journalism, of course, but quoting authorities provides value to almost every type of written piece. You don’t even need to telephone or email people to get a quotations – you can often find press releases that provide them. Just be sure to give proper credit to the source of the quotation.
Don’t try to re-invent the wheel when it comes to research, especially when it comes to lighthearted, fluffy pieces. No writer wants to devote hours to painstaking research, and most readers don’t want to slog through dry facts and figures anyway. Restrict yourself to that list of keywords and important phrases included in the project description, along with a couple of supporting facts and maybe a quotation or two.
Cite your resources
Always name your resources by saying “According to” or a similar phrase. Be sure to hyperlink your sources whenever possible, or do a proper bibliography when requested.
Most of all, have fun learning new facts and perspectives. Writing is one of the best ways of learning more about things that already interest you, and getting paid to perform research is a fantastic bonus.
Lynn H has been a professional writer, providing exceptional content online and offline, for nearly 20 years. In that time, she has penned thousands of articles for doctors, universities, researchers, small businesses, nursing organizations, sole proprietors and more. She writes everything from blogs to white papers; her specialty is putting complex scientific concepts in simple terms. She specializes in medical writing, creating informative and engaging content for professionals in medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, medical manufacturing, chiropractics, optometry, emergency care, plastic surgery and others.