Researching your Book: Where to start
Build a strong foundation for your message
Whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction, research is an important part of an author’s journey in publishing a book. You will need to demonstrate an understanding of the broader topic area of your proposed book. This is important for both the credibility and strength of your message. Research for a book does not have to take years and years, where you must read every single piece of writing ever published, that may be tangentially related to your topic. That is neither feasible nor beneficial. It is important from the get-go to make a plan for how you will do your research effectively, and then follow the plan through.
Here are a few tips for you to remember as you develop your research plan.
Map the field
This is an important step for you as the author, to make sure you are familiar with what has been written on your topic. Remember- there are lots of tangents and related topics, but it is your job as the author to navigate and assess what information is relevant and what is not. Prioritizing the details that are important to your message is key to identifying relevant resources. Let those details guide your research.
Situate yourself in the conversation
Once you have mapped the field of resources, now you can figure out where you fit in the conversation. What I like to remind authors of non-fiction is that you are not trying to be an “island”, no matter how unique your message is.
Being a professor, I’ve seen that one of the frequent lessons students have to learn is that however novel their ideas or arguments may be for an essay or dissertation, they need to be grounded in wider discourse.
Everything is part of a larger conversation.
So, if you are writing about the history of women planting churches in Canada, it is important to show the reader how your story fits into what other people are saying. Are you saying something totally different than what has been said? Great! Showing your reader how your new ideas fit into what has already been said on the topic helps your reader understand your arguments better. In essence, you are presenting “what we know” as a community about this topic, and then proposing what new knowledge people can add to their understanding.
Variety of resources
Make sure you are drawing from a variety of good, reliable resources to source your book. Draw from different types of resources- academic literature, books, articles, even blogs can have useful information for you. As the researcher, it is on you to assess the validity in any truth claims made in a piece of writing. For example, news media all have bias and will present stories in line with their own agendas. Make sure you vet the points they are making by going to other sources as well. You may come to similar conclusions, but that will be based on the research you conduct, not on another person’s opinion.
Pick a system to track your references
Every author has their own preferences for how to write and keep track of sources. The point is to have a system and stick with it! Make sure you cite your work as you go. Don’t wait till the end, assuming you will remember which quote came from where, or which website had that statistic you used. There is a wide range of software you can use to help you with this. Most have applications for Word, allowing you to seamlessly insert citations as you write. Whether you choose software, or good, old-fashioned journaling, pick a method for keeping track of your sources.
Just like writing, research takes time. But with a good strategy, you can do effective, efficient research that will benefit your book. Don’t skip over the research, but also don’t be intimidated by it. Make a plan and work the plan. There will be subsequent blog posts that will go deeper into the research process. But hopefully this is a good place for you to start.
Morning Dove Press is a Christ-centred publishing house in Atlantic Canada. We believe that our faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest inspiration for creativity and storytelling which can be powerful tools for sharing God’s love with the world. We publish authors from across Canada, who write fiction and non-fiction for the whole family, as well as curriculum for all ages. Be sure to subscribe on our website, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on what is happening.