I was hired to perform research and present the results in a format provided to me by my client and in return I received my second highest pay day yet. I have just completed this GetAFreelancer project which did not involve much in the way of writing. In fact, I probably delivered less than 500 words as most of the work product was in the form of statistical information.
Research forms the major part of my working day, indeed I spend far less time writing than I do surfing the internet for material to support my scribbling.
Delivering good quality content and copy requires good research. I frequently read articles that demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of the subject matter, and this comes through even with those pieces on subjects I have practically no familiarity with to begin with. If I can identify a poorly researched piece of writing then so can other readers. If you are seeking to persuade a reader to adopt your point of view, or indeed, buy a product or service, then you need to deliver well researched content.
So as far as I can see, I have a two-fold imperative – I must deliver content that is credible and reads like I know what I’m writing about (even if I don’t) and secondly, I need to keep the time it takes to perform the research under control as it eats into valuable writing time.
Adopting a disciplined approach to conducting research will help you get the bones of what you need out of your efforts for minimal time spent doing it. Though my research is almost 100% internet based, I try not to fall into the routine of surfing the same old sources time after time. Wikipedia and Google are my mainstays for research, but it does not hurt to venture further afield and look at other resources that are available on a topic. This is like walking a tightrope as you can easily succumb to the temptation to follow links through to other resources, chasing the research tiger’s tail, and satisfying personal curiosity rather than getting what you need to deliver the goods.
Research is also not just about getting acquainted with the subject matter, fact checking or looking for an idea; it is also about getting your references, if you are using them, so you can avoid being labelled a plagiarist. I always have my hardback notebook by my keyboard whenever I’m conducting research so I can jot down references and provide a citation where necessary. Don’t be afraid to quote someone else’s work, especially if you are using a medical or scientific study to support why your readers should buy XYZ product; this is as much about lending your message credibility as your writing.
Another tip; always keep your research. My clients come back repeatedly, and more often than not they want another 10,000 words on “Why Your Business Needs a Merchant Account” or whatever it is that they are promoting. Arranging your files so you keep research that supports your writing saves you having to go hunt for it all over again.
Research is a very satisfying activity, but I have to remind myself continuously why I am performing research or waste time. Jobs like the one just completed are fantastic both in terms of the pay and the subject matter, but unless someone is going to pay me to be a full-time researcher at these rates, tomorrow is another day hitting the keyboard and delivering 10,000 words on hotels in Thailand.