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Peter's Guide To Doing Research

Last Updated December 15, 1996

Start by writing down what it is you need to know. Put this in the form of questions you need to have answered. Keep pen and paper handy at all times to jot down other questions to get answered or points to raise.

Be prepared that some or all of the questions you originally jotted down may change in whole or in part as new research comes to light.

Gather together material you already have at hand on piece you're writing.

Don't be afraid to ask librarians and other professionals for help. Even friends and family might be useful in researching, knowing things or pointing you in the right direction.

Read magazine articles, newspaper accounts, books, reports, polls, encyclopedias, usenet groups, list groups, web and gopher sites, newsletters and anything else you can think of. Always keep your eyes on what it is you want to know. Go to libraries, the Internet and other places with specific things you want to know, even if you don't know what it is precisely you're looking for, at least you'll have an idea.

When interviewing, prepare in advance. Have questions and points you want to ask all jotted down. Be open to new questions and new points to raise as the interview progresses.

Don't ask questions you can find out elsewhere unless it's to confirm a point.

Guide the interview, but don't dominate it. You're there to listen. If the person strays too far from the subject at hand, guide the person back.

If a person is evasive or doesn't give an answer, ask the question in a different way and at another point in the interview.

Don't do too many off the record interviews or unatributable ones. Your job is get the information. You're also trying to protect yourself from libel.

Be fair. We all say and do things we later regret. Use your judgement. If what they've said or done is irrelevant or of minor importance ignore it. With people not used to being interviewed, such as ordinary citizens, be generous. They're more apt to say and do things they regret.

Collect more research than you can use for you can always cut. If you haven't done your homework in the first place you're going to be in BIG TROUBLE when it comes to writing your article.

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Last Updated July 5, 2005

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Comments and suggestions welcomed.

Updated by Peter D.A. Warwick

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Copyright 2002, Peter D.A. Warwick

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