Unexpected Research Tools

Unexpected Research Tools
July 13, 2017 No Comments » Writing Advice Eric Keizer

Research. Perhaps the second most (right behind “outlining”) misunderstood and feared word in academia and the writing world. I have observed students actually tremble at the thought of spending hours finding valid and pertinent research for projects and papers. Before the advent of the internet, I found myself dreading the inevitable, often repeated trips to the library. Today, students and writers are so fortunate to have virtually unlimited access to a plethora of resources not previously available to them.

Still, this unfettered access doesn’t de-stress or demystify the process for too many writers. For those Gen-Xers who grew up on the cusp on the Information Age, there seems to be a kind of “hit or miss” experiential history. I was both amazed and skeptical about the abundance of information one can find with a mere couple of clicks. Why wouldn’t I be? After all, I was used to trudging to the school library, waiting in line to ask the librarian to point me in the right direction, picking my way through dog-eared index cards, scanning smudged and dirty microfiche, and hoping I had copied my references correctly. To find information in microseconds? Well, that seemed akin to some kind of voodoo magic.

Fortunately, adaptability is something we humans are very proficient at doing well. Before I knew it, I was humming along. I found multiple sources with ease- all pertinent and recent studies to support my hypotheses. I was golden! Until I wasn’t. I learned the hard way that not all sources are citation worthy, and some “resources” really should never show up on anyone’s citation page. Although Wikipedia has made huge strides in verifying information, it probably won’t ever shake the reputation it rightly earned during its infancy. Well-established journals like JAMA and a few other medical and scientific publications remain the gold standard for both seasoned and aspiring authors to discover and verify information.

But where should one search for information when not creating a piece which needs engineering, medical, and scientific specifics? One overlooked resource we have in the writing community is each other. We all have unique life experiences. We come from diverse backgrounds, occupations, cultures, and socioeconomic groups. Despite these varied personal histories, we all can offer perspectives and information- ideas- freely to one another so that we contribute to enriching each other professionally, emotionally, and spiritually. Everyone has a story; everyone has an interest (or “stake”, if you prefer) in both sharing and offering information and support to one another. And we don’t even need the internet to accomplish this.

Certainly, both the internet and social media have facilitated communication between writers. I have met many amazing people (who also happen to write) because of sites like Facebook. These are people whom I probably would have never otherwise met, much less interacted with. In this respect, I have expanded my research “pool” exponentially. If I have a question, and one friend doesn’t know the answer, it is very likely that one of their friends may know- or know someone else who does. Imagine the possibilities!

Embrace your inner sleuth, embrace the quest for knowledge, and revel in the wealth of knowledge before you- but above all, never forget to utilize the greatest resource you have available to you- your wonderfully intelligent colleagues and friends. May your searches be fruitful, and your mind expanded.   

[Tweet theme=”tweet-string”]One overlooked resource we have in the #writing community is each other. @ekeizer01 #writingtips[/Tweet]
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