The Importance of Research

Whether I’m writing for my own project or someone else’s, it’s never a case of my simply opening a new document and typing. There’s a lot more that goes into my writing than just writing. I know there are plenty of copywriters out there who churn out content for chips, claiming to have the ability to write X amount of articles in an hour (I exaggerate, but only a little), and I wonder how many legitimate businesses fall for them. Worryingly, the internet is chock full of that type of writing, crammed full of errors and key words. The speed in which they’re written screams from the page.

But I’m running away with myself here. I’m here to talk to you about the research that goes into any piece of writing. In fact, I’d say that in most cases, I spend almost as much time researching as I do writing.

Recently, I was asked to write a blog post for a company, and I was given a brief outline of the subject, and a link to their website. As is often the case, I was unfamiliar with the company, and only had limited knowledge of the subject. The first thing I did was to click on that link to their website, and make some notes on what they did, and how they spoke. I paid some attention to their blog to get an idea of length and tone, and whether they used links, images etc. I also searched for any previous blogs they’d written on this particular subject, to ensure I wasn’t repeating anything.

I also did a search on the internet for other similar companies. Why? Well, it’s always useful to do a comparison with others in the same industry for a few reasons. You don’t want to inadvertently rip off anything they’ve done on their blog or website, and they might have snippets of information about the industry that the company you’re dealing with hasn’t covered. It’s always good to glean as much information about the industry as a whole, and not just the one you’re dealing with directly. So that was my next point of research.

My next job was to begin looking at the subject of the blog post. Sometimes, I have some knowledge of what I’m writing about, in which case I make some notes and use the internet to verify what I think I know. Then I expand on that by reading articles, blogs, news, watching videos etc. My aim is to get all the facts I can (and make sure they’re facts!), and get a feel for the type of people who are taking an interest in the subject, and gathering sources where I can.

No matter what angle you’re writing from, I find it’s quite often useful to read a little bit on the opposing side as well. But, be careful not to let it sway your writing if you do! For example, if you’re writing for a company that does something that some people find controversial, I don’t know, like, a tanning salon for instance, I might have a look at some articles which are against the idea (it doesn’t matter what my opinion is!), as the when I write, I can back up any claims that have been made.

Once I have a rough outline of the piece, I often go back to the company I’m writing for, to verify anything I’m not sure about, ask if they want this or that included/omitted, and make sure I’ve got all the details of the brief right.

And then, I write.

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