Guest post by Jawad Khan
With so many people leaving their jobs over the past few years, either by choice or forcefully, and the scope of freelance writing increasing every day, it’s only natural that more and more people are adopting freelance content writing as a full-time profession. That obviously means that the field is getting competitive as well. Clients have many more quality writers to choose from than they had a couple of years ago.
What, however, makes a writer stand apart, even in this competition, is the comprehensiveness of his content and the depth of his knowledge on his client’s niche. This is why thorough research and preparation before developing content on any niche has become much more important for writers these days. A well-researched article that gives value to the readers will not only stand out from the average stuff being written, but also has much better chances of getting recommended by people on the internet and getting shared on various social networks.
Being a freelance writer myself, there are a number of tools, techniques & methodologies that I use to ensure that I thoroughly research the topic I am about to write on. There are of course, a number of challenges in doing this research as well. Here’s my list of activities to ensure I get the most reliable information for my articles
Credibility of Information – Filtering out the junk!
Before the internet found its way in to almost every house across the developed world, research on any topic was a challenge because of the scarcity of resources. Today, however, the challenge is not the shortage of information, rather, the overflow of it. You need to filter out correct and credible information from the millions of search results that your average search query gets you. Search engines are much smarter now than they used to be and, therefore, rank their results on a number of parameters that include credibility as well. So that does reduce your problems a little.
Still, to ensure if the information is trust worthy, limit your research to the top websites and blogs in that niche. See if these references have been used by other renowned writers as well. A good way to avoid junk is to focus on websites with .edu, . gov or .org domains in that niche. This might not always be effective, since you might not find all the information you need on such websites, but most of the times websites like these are much more reliable than the usual .com domains. One mistake that new writers make is using popular social media content as a reference point for their articles. This is a risky tactic since not everything circulating on the social media is 100% true. So you would do well to avoid such information.
Google – Your best friend!
Oni has mentioned a number of times here on WritersinCharge, and it certainly is a fact, that Google.com, if used properly, is any writer’s best friend. If you know how to use Google search effectively, you may not need to use any other resource for research. Use different query types on Google to search for specific file extensions and databases. You will find detailed information on using different Google search operators over here.
While working on a project on trade & shipping documentation and the most common problems that businessmen face, I found the “filetype” searches extremely useful as they lead me to a number of original scanned shipping documents of organizations that I could study closely.
Talking about Google search, Google Scholar is another tool that you cannot afford to ignore as a writer. It not only fetches quality content results from millions of research journals and ebooks but also gives you a very good idea about the credibility of those results by showing the number of times they have been cited by other authors.
To Write Well, You Need to Read Well!
That stands true for writing in general as well. However, when faced with projects on a specific niche this is the fundamental step for every writer. Find out the most popular writers on that niche, from the top blogs and websites, and read their work. The more you read the better you will be able to write.
This has been my go to technique since I stepped into freelance writing. Every niche has its own terminologies, jargons and specific vocabulary usage. If used incorrectly, you may communicate a completely different message from what you originally intended to. Also, there are certain benchmarks, standards and norms in every industry or niche that you need to know about when writing on it. Use websites like Yahoo Answers and factmonster.com to fast track your learning in the areas you’re about to write on. If the topic you’re about to write on has lots of numbers involved, make sure that you interpret those figures correctly by cross verifying them with other similar articles. You must ensure that you have your homework completed before you start moving your fingers.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel – Maintain a Research Archive
The last thing, as a writer short on time, you need is doing all the research and fact finding without maintaining a research archive. As a writer, your time holds immense value. Therefore, you need to start valuing it as well. Try organizing your stuff so that you may use it if a need arises in any future projects. I am not talking about using sophisticated tools or management software, you can maintain important archives with simple tools like email labels, highlighting your emails, online link bookmarks and organizing your stuff in folders and directories so that you can refer to them anytime. You can also use Google Docs for maintaining useful links and building your personal research library online. Many freelance writers underestimate the value of organized work. We are professional writers and there are some professional norms that are useful even if you are operating from your home office. I have been following this practice for a number of years now and there are times when I do not even need to research on a certain topic at all since I already have so much information and previous content on it in my library.
To sum it up for you, research is all about being well prepared on the niche you’re about to write on. There can be a thousand more ways you could improve this research process. But that was not the point of this guest post. The objective of this post was to make you wonder if you are putting in enough effort and time in creating content that is not only rich in information but gives your readers the value that attracts them to your writings in future as well. And that, as I said before, can only be possible if your simplified words have comprehensive research to back them up.
If you benefited from ‘Content Research – Things You Need to Know as a Writer’ please share it on your social networking sites and with your writing friends.
Jawad Khan is an e-business Project Manager, a passionate marketer and a freelance content writer who loves to write about different strategies to generate tangible results for businesses through quality content. He writes regularly on the subjects of Entrepreneurship, Project Management and WordPress on his blog WritingMyDestiny