Sunday, August 31, 2014

Research Counts in Article Writing

I'm amazed at the lack of research in articles today. Compare a dozen online articles to any newspaper or national magazine article. (Fluff pieces not included.) Not only are numerous on-line articles less informative, they often create more questions than answers.

Even more appalling, is reading an article with unconfirmed, unfounded or worse, misinterpreted research.
Unfortunately quantity and urgency have replaced quality. Yes, readers want a lot of information, and they want it now.  But eventually, they catch on.  

Research might not be necessary if you have industry knowledge of a subject matter, but it always enhances any written piece--even when you don't include that research in the article.

How can research help when writing a basic article?

1) You'll make fewer mistakes between the lines. (More research means less assumptions and inaccuracies.)

2) You become trustworthy to all involved. Not only will readers appreciate when you confirm or enhance a fact by adding quotes from the actual source, the specialist (a professor, for example) will be more apt to make himself/herself available for future interviews. You might even receive exclusive updates.

3) You'll create a valuable contact list. The more you write knowledgeably about a subject or a professional, they more interviews you'll be granted. If you handle facts accurately, you could become the industry go-to person. Interviewees might just come to you.

4) Research can be used on additional projects. The more information you have on a subject, the more articles you can write. The more articles you write, the more coverage, the more backlinks, and the higher your search potential.  It doesn't take long before all that time and effort spent on research turns into valuable articles.

Five Simple Steps to Proper On-line Research

1) Start with keywords--most writers are willing to tackle this step. What they do next though, can make or break their long-term writing success.

2) Select appropriate links (Pick wisely. Opinion pieces and comments are useful reads for social subjects. However, anything informative should come from experts in the field). Never forget: the Internet does not guarantee accuracy. Tip: try links with .org on the end.

3) Scan for reliable links. What's worth highlighting? Statistics, studies, organizations, associations, experts, etc.

4) Go directly to the source...confirm statistics, review white papers/studies/clinical trials written by the specialists, visit legitimate associations and organizations, contact the professionals directly and ask for a brief interview. While this is often the most time consuming step, it is also the most important, and the one harried writers tend to avoid. See interviewing tips here.

5) Throrough interviews do not have to take long. Ask your source if they prefer a phone interview, video chat or email.  My favorite technique?  I prefer to email my basic questions and then follow up with a taped (with permission, of course) phone interview if necessary.  This way, the interviewee's time is respected (they can take as little or as much time as they like). They can confirm and guarantee that the information that I received is accurate and in their words.  And it's less likely I will make a mistake transferring the information. A follow-up phone call adds tone and confirms any potential misunderstandings. For more interview tips click here.

6) Be prepared to ask the interviewee for clarification as you continue your research. End all interviews with a thank you and brief request to call/email back if any confirmation is required.

7) Carefully choose the information relevant to your story. Categorize the remaining research for future or complentary articles.