Seven research tips for informed writing

Person doing research

Good writing is grounded in what E.B. White referred to as ‘the eloquence of facts’. Whether it’s client copy or personal blog posts, you should always make sure you do your research.

That said, it’s a tough balance to strike between knowing enough to write with information and generating copy quickly and efficiently. We can’t all be world renowned experts, so here are seven top research tips to make sure you know you’re telling people what they need to know:

  1. Go back to the source. A good brief will include helpful collateral. Clients will always have some document, brochure or video that they can share. Devour and break down whatever you are given. It not only tells you objective information, but tells you how the client likes to see themselves and their offerings in terms of tone and attitude.
    This applies for blogs too – think about what sparked your idea. Go back to the article, find the film clip, search out the photo. Even go back to the place where you first thought of it.
  2. Ask an expert. Whether it’s a product expert from inside your client’s company, a third party specialist or a happy customer, there is always someone out there who knows more than you. People love to talk about what they’re passionate about so aim high and try to talk to the best in the field. And remember, interviews should be guided and informative conversations.
  3. The site you can never cite. Wikipedia is fantastic for getting an overview of a person, a term or anything else. Of course you should never cite it as a source, but start there and give yourself a grounding.
  4. Yourself. For a company like Articulate, who writes a lot on tech, there are plenty of occasions where we get crossover topics. Dig through your archive, you’ll probably be surprised what you’ve written on before. Warning: never plagiarise yourself, but feel free to use yourself as an informed prompt.
  5. Google it.…Ok, maybe that’s a bit simplistic. We all know ‘Google it’, but here are a couple of specific search engine tips for researching something you want to write on:
    5a. Google News search. Looking at what comes up in the headlines, and where in the world that topic is buzzing is a brilliant way to tap in to the heart of the current conversation, and it helps to make sure your writing is bang up to date. Start with Google News, then drill down into industry or interest-specific publications.
  6. Google Blog search. Wander down the rabbit hole. Some people write great, well-researched blogs that just happen to get very little traffic. Others are extremely popular and with good reason. Not only is this a good way in to the conversation on a given topic, but a great way of finding links to other articles, studies, facts and figures.
  7. Future-gazing googling. What I mean by this is: Imagine you have written your article and it’s online already. Now be your ideal, target reader and type into Google the question that your article will answer. Use the phrases and mindset of your reader and see what’s already out there talking to them, and where the gap is for you to write something even better.
30 Days to Better Business Writing
Get free email updates whenever we publish new posts on Bad Language.

No spam. Just essential marketing insights.

Sign up today and we'll send you a free copy of '30 Days to Better Business Writing' too.

, , , , , , , , ,

10 Responses to Seven research tips for informed writing

  1. RichardY says:

    Tip 7: outstanding. Nicking it immediately.

  2. I agree about Tip 7 (future-gazing googling). Brilliant.


  1. How to write like you mean it | Bad Language - 1 July 2013

    […] write. That doesn’t mean you can’t discuss the smallest of topics, just be sure you research it […]

  2. Filtering the ocean: how to manage information overload on big writing projects | Bad Language - 23 September 2013

    […] projects. Some come with precise briefs and ideal interviewees. Others require us to do a little more research and carve out a shape and direction for the client. Every now and then, however, we get the type of […]

  3. A few links for the end of the week | Words on a page - 25 October 2013

    […] 7 research tips for informed writing […]

  4. The secrets of artful communication: learning from the masters - 7 November 2013

    […] Of course, that can be a pretty daunting prospect, especially on big or wide-ranging projects. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. […]

  5. How we work: what does a copywriter do? - 10 March 2015

    […] Research […]

  6. How to have a big idea: 21 inspirational tools, tips and websites - 11 June 2015

    […] we’re creating personas or researching content for our clients, we love to do interviews. In fact, a good rule of thumb is one interview for every […]

  7. A recipe for disaster: 4 research sources to avoid in your writing • Articulate - 27 February 2017

    […] and relevant. Too many discreditable sources spoil the broth. If they’re based on unfounded research or speculation, reconsider their use, and avoid the following four sources at least 99 percent of […]

Leave a Reply