skip to Main Content

How to Research a Book


When you write a book, there is one fact that cannot be overlooked: you must research the content you plan to write. This means it becomes necessary to know how to research a book even before you may know how to write one.

Researching a book means getting your ideas organized. It means getting to know the mannerisms of your characters, the descriptions of a locale, and any historical elements that are going to be included within the narrative.

You could just start writing, but the chances of having a quality result are low if you just keep typing on your keyboard. Whether it’s a short story or an epic novel, research is what will set your work apart from the other authors in your preferred genre.

Research Doesn’t Always Happen at the Library
When many writers think about research, the first thing that pops into mind is the reference section at the local library. The idea of browsing through encyclopedias, research papers, and other fact-based documents is less than appealing. This causes procrastination, avoidance, and some really bad stories to be written.

Research isn’t just dry reading work. There are many ways that you can include research into your writing without really changing your habits all that much. Here are some common research options that could be included in your work right now.

Personal Experience.
There is no substitute for personal experience. When you’re out there experiencing something with all of your senses, it becomes a powerful memory that you can draw upon when writing. If you don’t have a personal experience with a certain subject, such as police work, you can obtain it by requesting a ride-along with a local officer.

You can also research by interviewing key figures within the subject matter you intend to cover. Talk to scientists about the viability of an idea you wish to include in your book. Talk to politicians to get a story about an election right. The options here are endless and most folks don’t mind answering a few questions if they know you’re writing a book. The people you interview will likely buy your book as well, especially if you offer a word of thanks for their help on a dedication page.

Online Resources.
There are numerous blogs, discussion boards, forums, and social media pages that are available today that offer you research resources. Read articles online in the comfort of your own home. Download them to a mobile device so you can read them at the local coffee shop. Just remember to bookmark them, print them out, or save them locally in case you forget where the content was accessed.

With good research, you create an added layer of believability within the context of a book. That’s why every research option should be explored.

How to Make Sense of Your Book Research
You’ve got personal experiences. You’ve got interview transcripts. You might even have photographic images of the microfiche you pulled at the local library. Now what?

The next step in the research process is to get yourself organized. Save files in folders that are clearly labeled based on the information the research contains. Keep paper files in real folders instead of using the “piles” filing method. If you have emails, then put them in clearly labeled folders as well instead of leaving them in your inbox.

Many writers find that it is beneficial to sort through all of the gathered research materials based on the level of factual data each item contains. This makes it easier to verify information that you may feel is a little questionable.

It is also important to remember that your research should only include nonfiction resources. Even if a fictional book seems very real and the descriptions are quite detailed, they may not be completely accurate. If you copy this material, you may very well find yourself at the wrong end of a copyright claim.

What Approach Works Best for You When It Comes to Research?
Knowing how to research a book can look a little different from writer-to-writer. What matters more than a specific process is the level of organization and access you have when it comes to the research that you need to do. If you must spend a lot of time finding materials to research instead of spending that time reviewing the data, then you need to find a different approach.

Then, once you have all of this information ready to go, you’re ready for the next step. Start writing.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

Back To Top