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petwriter
04-19-2008, 03:22 AM
I am the author of one non-fiction book, and I'm interested to hear about how others conducted their research. What was your research process like? I didn't do all my research at the beginning and then started to write, but instead did research and wrote simultaneously. I'm wondering what others' experiences have been with researching your books. How did you do it? Do you do all the research first, including interviews, and then start to write--or did you do everything simultaneously? Do you keep files for each chapter--on your computer, and/or paper files?

Are there any books/resources out there on the research process for non-fiction books?

scope
04-19-2008, 06:25 AM
I can't imagine writing a nonfiction piece (book or article) without first doing all the research that's necessary. If you know exactly what you want your piece to be about, but don't have all the facts and info at hand, how can you write an intelligent, desirable piece before researching the subject? What you discover when researching may very well alter the way you intended to write your work. Even a credentialed expert on a subject should do research (for many reasons) before writing. To write while in the midst of researching can and probably will lead to potentially drastic re-writes as subsequent research reveals new facts, info, etc., changing the facts you've already included. It could also cause you to scrap all of what you've already written. You must complete all your research before doing a serious write. That's not to say you can't start writing while researching, but it is to say that if you do so you must be prepared to ditch everything you've completed or dramatically change your focus and re-write as is needed.

brc23
04-19-2008, 06:30 AM
Ditto.

BUT! When I know my subject I make an outline...with a few paragraphs about where I intend to go with it...so after I research/interview I know where to put that info. It takes less brain power to organize first...but that's just me. I also put notes to myself at the bottom of the entire document...separated by a blank page...for quick reference while typing.

petwriter
04-19-2008, 06:39 AM
What about if you already have a strong background on the topic/or your book isn't much more than practical advice and knowledge--such as a book on relationships or something like that. That's been my experience, which is why I've researched and written simultaneously.

How much research do you do when writing non-fiction? I know this is hard to quantify, but roughly, how many books/articles/web sites do you read? Do you do all your interviewing beforehand--or while you're writing? How much time roughly do you spend doing research before you start to write?

scope
04-19-2008, 08:02 PM
What about if you already have a strong background on the topic/or your book isn't much more than practical advice and knowledge--such as a book on relationships or something like that. That's been my experience, which is why I've researched and written simultaneously.

How much research do you do when writing non-fiction? I know this is hard to quantify, but roughly, how many books/articles/web sites do you read? Do you do all your interviewing beforehand--or while you're writing? How much time roughly do you spend doing research before you start to write?

To your first point, it sounds as if you are writing a memoir where you know what already happened and are advising people based on your experiences. Whether or not this describes your work is really not important, although I would not say that your personal experiences necessarily qualify you as an expert. But lets assume you are an expert. I still believe that even experts should do research. What advice do other experts give which may or may not agree with yours? What is said somewhere, anywhere, that you agree or disagree with, and why? What proof do you have to offer and based on what? How will you make your book better than anything in the market? And even if you are an expert in relationships (your example) what personal and/or societal changes may have occurred since you formed your opinion? And on and on.

I do a lot of research before I begin writing. The duration of same varies depending on the subject. Probably two months to one year if measured in straight time. How many sources do I refer to? As many as I can get my hands on. I constantly think about new sources I may have missed.

Snowstorm
04-19-2008, 08:16 PM
Absolutely agree with doing my research FIRST. If you outline or have your direction first, you may research to substantiate your direction and miss out on balancing information. I believe the more research the more rich the piece becomes.

When I research, the more I find the more I realize how much information I'm missing. I love research and enjoy that more than doing the actual writing!

gettingby
04-20-2008, 12:35 AM
I knew very little about my topic when I first decided to make it a book. I say very little in terms of what I know now, but I had read and studied and unknowingly prepared myself to write this book for years. However, you do learn a lot more once you start the process. Because my book involves a current and ongoing situation, I have done research and writing at the same time. My outline has changed some, but the general idea has stayed the same. This is not a book that I think should wait years to be written. I know that timing is also what is generating interest or at least helping. As far as how much research, I believe you should live your story. Get up and search news reports for your topic on a daily or almost daily basis. Go anywhere your sources invite you that might add to the story.
I think it might depend on what type of book you are writing, but I also think it is a personal preference.

scope
04-20-2008, 03:15 AM
I knew very little about my topic when I first decided to make it a book. I say very little in terms of what I know now, but I had read and studied and unknowingly prepared myself to write this book for years. However, you do learn a lot more once you start the process. Because my book involves a current and ongoing situation, I have done research and writing at the same time. My outline has changed some, but the general idea has stayed the same. This is not a book that I think should wait years to be written. I know that timing is also what is generating interest or at least helping. As far as how much research, I believe you should live your story. Get up and search news reports for your topic on a daily or almost daily basis. Go anywhere your sources invite you that might add to the story.
I think it might depend on what type of book you are writing, but I also think it is a personal preference.


Indeed, the impression I get from your post is that you are writing a very personal story. For a variety of reasons having nothing to do with writing the best possible manuscript I get the impression that you have (want?) to finish your story as quickly as possible and try to get it published. If I am right, I have never encountered such a writing situation, and therefore find myself in no position to give you the best of advice. The only thing I can say is that whatever your reasons you have to do a lot of research so your work is at least accurate and up to date.

You say that you unknowingly prepared yourself to write your book. Unknowingly doesn't sound such a good a word to me - versus research and knowingly (of course you should validate as "normal," or not, any personal experiences which you be part of your story). If it is a personal story you of course have to have lived it, but that doesn't eliminate the need for research and accuracy. Amongst other things your work will be judged on same.

I'm not quite sure i get your meaning about this being "a personal preference." What is the preference? Write perhaps inaccurately but finish it and offer it for publication as fast as you can?

scope
04-20-2008, 03:21 AM
I knew very little about my topic when I first decided to make it a book. I say very little in terms of what I know now, but I had read and studied and unknowingly prepared myself to write this book for years. However, you do learn a lot more once you start the process. Because my book involves a current and ongoing situation, I have done research and writing at the same time. My outline has changed some, but the general idea has stayed the same. This is not a book that I think should wait years to be written. I know that timing is also what is generating interest or at least helping. As far as how much research, I believe you should live your story. Get up and search news reports for your topic on a daily or almost daily basis. Go anywhere your sources invite you that might add to the story.
I think it might depend on what type of book you are writing, but I also think it is a personal preference.


Indeed, the impression I get from your post is that you are writing a very personal story. For a variety of reasons having nothing to do with I get the impression that you have (want?) to finish your story as quickly as possible and try to get it published. If I am right, I have never encountered such a writing situation, and therefore do not find myself in a position to give you the best of advice. The only thing I can say is that whatever your reasons you have to do a lot of research so your work is at least accurate and up to date.

You say that you unknowingly prepared yourself to write your book. Unknowingly doesn't sound like such a good a word to me - versus research and knowingly (of course you should validate as "normal," or not, any personal experiences which may be part of your story). If it is a personal story you of course have to have lived it, but that doesn't eliminate the need for research and accuracy. Amongst other things your work will be judged on same.

I'm not quite sure I get your meaning about this being "a personal preference." What is the preference? Write perhaps inaccurately but finish it and offer it for publication as fast as you can?

gettingby
04-20-2008, 04:38 AM
Scope - I do not think you are understanding. As a journalist, I know the importance of accuracy. When I said I unknowing prepared to write this, I was saying that other projects brought me to this. I just meant that when I first started looking into my book topic, it was not for a book. My book is timely and newsworthy. It is not a memoir.
I agree that there is a lot of research involved. However, my approach is that my research is ongoing. I am not waiting until I am done to write the book. I don't think it is very kind of you to just assume I am slapping something together because my approach is different than yours.

scope
04-20-2008, 06:24 AM
We all have different approaches and to say objectively that one is better than another doesn't make too much sense to me.The final proof is in the pudding.

If you will re-read your initial post and the one directly above this you will probably understand why I was somewhat confused as to what and why. Only in your last post do you tell us that your current idea, the one for which you seek advice re research, is in essence somewhat of an outgrowth of other journalistic projects you were working on.

As you well know, when one seeks advice from a wide section they will hopefully receive many viewpoints. My viewpoint re writing and research for a nonfiction book remains the same. I begin by producing a loose outline for my book that's wide open to change. With that outline in hand I have a "clear" direction to follow and proceed to do as much research as I can. I will make notes (I don't want to call it writing) and place same within my outline and then continue researching. I do this until I feel I have enough to start writing a manuscript. As I do so there's always a need for additional research. For me this continues until I feel I've produced a completed manuscript - but of course that's only the beginnings of re-write after re-write and additional research. That's my very, very basic process. It may not be yours, but it's you who asked all of us "What was you research like?" How did you do it?" ETC. Sorry I didn't understand the actual meaning of your initial post.

gettingby
04-20-2008, 09:05 AM
We all have different approaches and to say objectively that one is better than another doesn't make too much sense to me.The final proof is in the pudding.

If you will re-read your initial post and the one directly above this you will probably understand why I was somewhat confused as to what and why. Only in your last post do you tell us that your current idea, the one for which you seek advice re research, is in essence somewhat of an outgrowth of other journalistic projects you were working on.

As you well know, when one seeks advice from a wide section they will hopefully receive many viewpoints. My viewpoint re writing and research for a nonfiction book remains the same. I begin by producing a loose outline for my book that's wide open to change. With that outline in hand I have a "clear" direction to follow and proceed to do as much research as I can. I will make notes (I don't want to call it writing) and place same within my outline and then continue researching. I do this until I feel I have enough to start writing a manuscript. As I do so there's always a need for additional research. For me this continues until I feel I've produced a completed manuscript - but of course that's only the beginnings of re-write after re-write and additional research. That's my very, very basic process. It may not be yours, but it's you who asked all of us "What was you research like?" How did you do it?" ETC. Sorry I didn't understand the actual meaning of your initial post.

Hi Scope - It was not me who asked the question or for advice on this matter. I just wanted to clear things up because you commented on what I said.

escritora
04-20-2008, 09:26 AM
How much research do you do when writing non-fiction? I know this is hard to quantify, but roughly, how many books/articles/web sites do you read?

My nonfiction writing is directly related to my business. As a result, I read books/articles/websites on a daily basis. When I wrote my first book and subsequent book proposals, I didn't have to do much research because most of the information is somewhere in my mind or it's direct client experience.


Do you do all your interviewing beforehand--or while you're writing? How much time roughly do you spend doing research before you start to write?

While I'm writing. When I get stumped, I pick up the phone and call someone.

petwriter
04-22-2008, 04:04 AM
I'd like to hear more about others' research processes.

How many sources do you typically read for background, and of what type (i.e. articles from the web, articles in print, books, etc.) When you print off or photocopy your source, what do you do with it then--do you take notes in a separate file and save it for later synthesizing, or do you immediately incorporate the info into your book as you research?

Is anyone writing a historical work, such as based on a historical figure or event? I'm particularly interested to hear how you would go about researching and writing a book like that.

scope
04-22-2008, 06:30 AM
Apparently you're working on a historical piece, the depth and "seriousness" of which I obviously have no idea (nor the audience for whom it's intended). All of this has an impact on the type and depth of your work.

The sources for research are endless, beyond the obvious (e.g., books, internet, articles). I suggest you sit down with a pad and pencil and think about ANY possible source you could explore for research on your subject. Write freely, don't worry about how crazy you may initially think are some of the ideas, just make as long a list as you can. Then go speak to your local reference librarian, tell him or her the genesis of your book idea and ask what sources he or she might recommend for research beyond the obvious (I think you'll be surprised at how good some are at this type of thing). Go back to your off the cuff research source list and add and/or delete. Start your research with the most obvious and I guarantee that as you progress many other sources will become evident (e.g., local and nation organizations and/or association, special people). The key is to get started rather than first coming up with a perfect list.

brc23
04-22-2008, 06:57 AM
Petwriter, I haven't not published a book, as of yet, but I did minor in History in college and had to do history research at length and write VERY long winded boring papers on them to prove that I read all my sources.

If I were going to write a book in that fashion, of course making it more interesting, I would do the research the same way. (The internet only became popular when I was a soph.) I found that section in my library. I looked at every single books table of contents. Selected the books that didn't bore me to tears and started to what I call 'heavily skim' them to see if they had the info I needed. Believe it or not most of them quoted the books I left on the shelf. HA HA! Once a book caught my interest in more than one or two places I would read more intently...taking notes as I went.

I would google your topic, but you have to look further than the first page of websites. You have to google it using more than one term or phrase so it will bring different results. Or type, "Books written about..." and then check those books out. (Plus you can use it later for writing about your competition!)

As far as articles paper or internet if they give me enough information I tear them out or print. I highlight the info I want to remember, put them in a three ring binder, separated by pages of notes of what I was thinking while I was reading that article. This is usually where all my book brain storming goes...things you don't want to forget. Or areas you don't want to forget or look up later. That way it goes right with the articles in the order I did the research.

It works for me to go in order because if I get off too far in one direction I look back at where I started to stray, read that article again and go in different direction. Kind of a refocus.

In the front of the three ring binder I keep blank paper. I start the beginning of an outline and add to it as I progress, never erasing, just adding. If I take anything out, I put it at the back in case I might want it later. I hardly ever delete or throw away anything until I am completely done with a project.

Hope that helps....or at least is what you were looking for.

jenngreenleaf
04-22-2008, 04:42 PM
I am the author of one non-fiction book, and I'm interested to hear about how others conducted their research. What was your research process like? I didn't do all my research at the beginning and then started to write, but instead did research and wrote simultaneously. I'm wondering what others' experiences have been with researching your books. How did you do it? Do you do all the research first, including interviews, and then start to write--or did you do everything simultaneously? Do you keep files for each chapter--on your computer, and/or paper files?

Are there any books/resources out there on the research process for non-fiction books?I research as I write. Though, just because this works for me (since 1999 - if it isn't broken, why fix it?), that doesn't mean it works for everyone. Everyone has their own way of doing things based on what the subject matter is and so on. I'm writing about home building now because, like others have mentioned, it is a topic I know extremely well and can write about without having to read volumes of material first.

Sunnyside
04-22-2008, 10:52 PM
David McCullough once said that the biggest error non-fiction writers -- or at least biographers -- make is OVERresearching. As he puts it, ya gotta start sometime, and sometimes you don't know what you're missing until you start writing it and then learn where the holes are. So, I'm not sure I could say that I start writing once I'm done with ALL the research -- because you never know what "ALL" might mean. Perhaps you think you've done all of it, and that's when you start.

In my case, I did quite a bit of research, and then sat down and wrote out an outline of my subject's life to see what the high points were (in other words, if it was on the list, then it made an impact on me and I obviously considered it a high point), From there, I drafted an outline, breaking it up into reasonable chunks, then started the writing. At almost every step I found I had to do a little more research. But I wouldn't have known what I was missing until I started the writing.

scope
04-23-2008, 02:59 AM
I work almost exactly as does Sunnyside. I do a lot of research before starting my outline, enough so that I feel quite comfortable and able to do the outline. One catch, as suggested by Sunnyside - as I write I always discover that I have much more research to do. However, you will never get to that point unless you have an intelligent outline and you start to write.

LJameson
04-30-2008, 10:48 AM
I'd like to hear more about others' research processes.

How many sources do you typically read for background, and of what type (i.e. articles from the web, articles in print, books, etc.) When you print off or photocopy your source, what do you do with it then--do you take notes in a separate file and save it for later synthesizing, or do you immediately incorporate the info into your book as you research?

Is anyone writing a historical work, such as based on a historical figure or event? I'm particularly interested to hear how you would go about researching and writing a book like that.

I begin by setting up a folder on my computer named "whatever I'm writing". Next come the subfolders; articles, photos, websites, etc. When I search the web for information, I'll give it a quick read and if it looks promising, into a folder it goes.

Next I create a spreadsheet of proposed chapters and what type of info should go in each one and where my research resource is located (folder A, subfolder C, photo 3457684, etc.)

Anything lacking? I make a list of who I should go to for information and begin making contacts.

Of course, I'm a very detail-oriented person. I don't begin writing until I'm satisfied that I have an overabundance of research information.