As a freelance writer, I’ve researched hundreds of books in my career. When I write one eBook, for example, I usually read anywhere between three and ten books just for background research, not to mention the dozens of websites I visit, articles I read and email lists I subscribe to.
This can be very time consuming and can make meeting short deadlines very difficult. So over the years I’ve developed a handful of strategies for streamlining my research processes and extracting only what I need from any one book as fast as possible.
Tip #1 – Use an Organizational Tool with Cloud Backup
I use Evernote for all of my note taking. It doesn’t have to be Evernote, but the tool you use should sync to the cloud so you can access your notes on any device or computer you use to write. Google Drive is equally useful for this reason.
The reason for this is simple – these note taking tools allow you to create notebooks, organize notes by types, and have instant access to them anywhere.
Tip #2 – Buy Print Books and Write in Them
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always had an easier time flipping back and forth in a print book than in an eBook. Unless you live in a rural area and have no access to bookstores, I always recommend buying print books.
Pass the price along to the client or write it off on your taxes, but it’s well worth buying the books and writing in them to have permanent notes. I do, however, use Kindle to download samples and review the tables of contents before buying anything for research.
Tip #3 – Don’t Write from Your Notes
While your notes may be extremely detailed, never write from them when you go to create an article or eBook. The purpose of notes is to have reference points later. If you write FROM those notes, you’re just plagiarizing the books you read.
Instead, create your outline from the compilation of your notes and reference notes when you need a fact or figure for quotation.
Tip #4 – Write an Outline Early and Build Around It
Writing an outline early will make it much easier to avoid the plagiarism trap that many writers fall into when using their notes during the composition process.
Do your core research and then create an outline. From here, only research the points you’ve included in your outline. If you know you need a specific fact or figure you can target your research and save a lot of time – read one chapter in that book instead of the entire book.
Tip #5 – Find 3-5 Unrelated Resources
Don’t buy one book then buy every book that book references. Look for three, four, or even five completely unrelated resources in the niche. While most major books will likely reference each other in some capacity, you want to get diverse opinions on a topic.
I will usually buy 2-3 major authority resources on a topic, then grab 4-6 additional books from lesser known writers that are still considered very well written. I’ve even downloaded a few Kindle-only resources to get additional perspective on a topic.
When done right, research can go much faster than if you were to fully read five to ten books before you start writing. The depth of detail in any given project will ultimately determine how much research is needed, but with these tips you can get started faster if nothing else.