Research Skills for Writers: Tips and Strategies

By Kimberly


If you’re a writer, you know that research is a crucial part of the writing process. Whether you’re writing a novel, a research paper, at work wishing you were writing or knocking out a blog post, you need to be able to find and use reliable sources to support your writing.

  1. Develop a plan to stay focused. Take some time to think about what you want to accomplish. What are your goals for this piece of writing? What questions do you need to answer? What sources do you need to consult?
  2. Know where to look for information and which sources are reliable and trustworthy. Academic journals and books are often more reliable than blogs or social media posts. Look for sources that are written by experts in the field or that have been peer-reviewed.

Research can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure where to start. In this article, we’ll make research a little less scary – and explore tips and strategies to help you improve your research skills and become a more effective writer.

An image of a Notepad with research ideas and pen. Laptop keyboard on yellow wood.

Why Research Skills Are Essential for Writers

As a writer, you know that good writing skills are essential to convey your message effectively. However, writing skills alone are insufficient to make you a good writer. You need to have a solid foundation of research skills to support your writing.

Here are a few reasons why research skills are essential for writers.

Ideas and Message

Research skills help you to generate ideas for your writing and develop a clear message. When you conduct research, you explore different perspectives and gather information that can help you to form new ideas and insights. This can help you to create a unique and compelling message that resonates with your audience.

Tone and Accuracy

Research skills also help you to develop the right tone for your writing. By conducting research, you can better understand your audience and tailor your tone to their needs and preferences. Additionally, research helps you to ensure the accuracy of your writing.

You can use evidence and data to support your arguments and ensure your writing is factual and credible.

Evidence and Reasoning

Research skills also help you to develop strong evidence and reasoning to support your writing. By conducting research, you can gather data and information that can help you to make strong arguments and support your claims. This can help you to create more persuasive and compelling writing that resonates with your audience.

Research skills are essential for writers. They help you to generate ideas, develop a clear message, tailor your tone to your audience, ensure accuracy, and develop strong evidence and reasoning to support your writing. You can become a more effective and successful writer by honing your research skills.

An image of a Hand taking notes in the notebook while using laptop searching the internet for information.

Types of Research for Writers

As a writer, you must research to gather information to help you create compelling content. There are two types of research: primary research and secondary research.

Primary Research

Primary research involves collecting data directly from sources. This type of research is more time-consuming and expensive than secondary research, but it provides more accurate and reliable information.

Some common methods of primary research include:

  • Observation: This involves watching and recording events or people’s behavior. It can be done in person or through video recordings.
  • Interviews: You can conduct interviews to gather information from experts or people who have experienced a particular event or situation.
  • Data collection: Collecting data through experiments, surveys, or case studies.
  • Questionnaires: You can use questionnaires to collect data from many people. You can distribute questionnaires online or in person.

Secondary Research

Secondary research involves collecting data that already exists. It is less time-consuming and expensive than primary research, but it may not be as accurate or reliable.

Some common methods of secondary research include:

  • Online research techniques: You can use search engines, online databases, and social media to gather information.
  • Historical and cultural research: You can research historical events or cultural practices to provide context for your writing.

As a writer, you should use a combination of primary and secondary research to gather information.

Primary research will provide more accurate and reliable information, while secondary research can provide background information and context.

Combining these research methods can create compelling, well-researched, and informative content.

Finding and Evaluating Sources

Finding and evaluating sources is a crucial part of your research process as a writer. It is essential to have reliable sources to support your arguments and ideas. Here are some tips to help you find and evaluate sources effectively:


Firstly, it is important to ensure that the sources you use are accessible. This means they are available to you in a format you can use. For example, if you are a student, you may have access to academic journals through your university library. Alternatively, you may need to use online databases or public libraries to find your needed sources.

Identifying Reliable Sources

When looking for sources, it is important to identify reliable ones. Reliable sources are those that are trustworthy and provide accurate information. Some ways to identify reliable sources include:

  • Checking the author’s credentials
  • Looking for peer-reviewed articles
  • Checking the publication date
  • Considering the source’s bias

Cultural Research

If you are researching a particular culture, it is essential to use sources written by people from that culture. This will give you a more accurate and nuanced understanding of the topic.

Being aware of your biases and assumptions when conducting cultural research is also important.

Scholarly Research

Scholarly research is research that experts in a particular field conduct. Using scholarly sources in your writing is important as they are often peer-reviewed and provide reliable information.

Some examples of scholarly sources include academic journals, books written by experts in a particular field, and conference proceedings.

Evaluating Sources

Once you have found potential sources, it is important to evaluate them to ensure that they are reliable and relevant to your research. Some questions to ask when evaluating sources include:

  • Is the source reliable?
  • Is the information accurate?
  • Is the source biased?
  • Is the source relevant to your research?

Following these tips, you can find and evaluate sources effectively to support your writing.

An image of a freelance writer studying online in library, using laptop, surfing information in internet, looking at screen and typing.

Navigating Libraries and Online Resources

When it comes to conducting research, libraries and online resources are two of the most valuable tools at your disposal. Navigating these resources can be a bit overwhelming initially, but with a few tips and tricks, you can find the information you need quickly and efficiently.

Navigating Libraries

Libraries are excellent resources for writers, but they can be intimidating if you’re not used to using them.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate your university or local library.

  • Ask for help. Librarians are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. They can help you find the needed resources and even teach you how to use the library’s online catalog.
  • Learn the catalog system. Most libraries use a catalog system to organize their books and other materials. Learn how the system works to find things faster.
  • Use interlibrary loan. If your library doesn’t have the book or article you need, ask about interlibrary loan. This service allows you to borrow materials from other libraries.

Online Research Techniques

The internet has made it easier than ever to find information, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you navigate online resources:

  • Use advanced search techniques. Most search engines have advanced search options that allow you to narrow down your results. Learn how to use these options to find the information you need more quickly.
  • Evaluate your sources. Not all information on the internet is accurate or reliable. Take the time to evaluate your sources to ensure that you’re using credible information.
  • Bookmark your sources. When you find a useful website or article, bookmark it so you can easily find it again later.

Finding and Evaluating Journal Sources

Journals are an excellent source of information for writers, but it can be challenging to find the right ones. Here are a few tips to help you find and evaluate journal sources:

  • Use journal databases. Most universities have access to journal databases that allow you to search for articles in specific fields. Learn how to use these databases to find the information you need.
  • Evaluate the journal. When you find a journal article, take the time to evaluate the journal itself. Is it a reputable publication? Does it use a peer-review process?
  • Read the abstract. Before diving into a journal article, read the abstract to ensure it’s relevant to your research. This will save you time and help you avoid reading articles that aren’t useful.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to easily navigate libraries and online resources, finding the information you need quickly and efficiently.

Synthesizing Information

As a writer, you must often gather information from various sources to create a cohesive and informative piece.

Synthesizing information combines information from multiple sources to create a new understanding or idea. It involves analyzing, interpreting, and evaluating information to identify key themes, arguments, and perspectives.

Here are some tips to help you synthesize information effectively.

1. Read and Annotate Carefully

When reading through sources, take your time and read carefully. Highlight or underline key points and make notes in the margins. This will help you identify important information and make connections between different sources.

You can also use symbols or color-coding to categorize information by theme or relevance.

2. Organize Your Notes

After reading and annotating your sources, organize your notes in a way that makes sense. You can create a table or spreadsheet to compare and contrast information or use bullet points to summarize key points.

This will help you see patterns and connections between sources, making it easier to synthesize information later.

3. Identify Key Themes and Arguments

As you review your notes, look for key themes and arguments that emerge across sources. This might involve identifying common ideas, trends, perspectives or contrasting viewpoints on a particular topic.

You can use headings or subheadings to organize your notes by theme or create a mind map to visualize connections between sources.

4. Evaluate and Synthesize Information

Once you have identified key themes and arguments, evaluate and synthesize the information to create a new understanding or idea. This might involve identifying gaps or inconsistencies in the information or drawing connections between different sources to create a new perspective.

Use your voice and ideas to create a cohesive and original piece of writing reflecting your understanding of the topic.

Following these tips, you can synthesize information effectively and create informative and engaging writing pieces. Remember always to cite your sources and give credit where credit is due.

An image of a thoughtful senior writer working and analyzing research in a laptop.

Applying Research to Writing (in General)

As a writer, you know that research is an essential part of the writing process. It helps you create accurate, informative, and engaging content that resonates with your audience, regardless of your writing style or genre.

This section will explore how to apply research to your writing process effectively.


Before you start writing, it’s essential to plan your content. This involves determining the purpose of your writing, identifying your target audience, and creating an outline of your content.

Research can help you to identify the most relevant topics, keywords, and phrases to include in your content. It can also help you understand your audience’s needs and preferences, guiding you in creating content that resonates with them.


Creating an outline is an essential step in the writing process. It helps you to organize your thoughts and ideas into a logical sequence that flows well.

Research can help you identify the key points you need to cover in your content and organize them into a coherent structure.

You can use headings and subheadings to break up your content into sections and make it easier to read.


When you start drafting your content, it’s essential to keep your research in mind. Use the information you’ve gathered to create accurate, informative, and engaging content.

Make sure to cite your sources properly and avoid plagiarizing. You can use bullet points, tables, and other formatting options to make your content more visually appealing and easier to read.


Editing is a crucial step in the writing process. It involves reviewing your content for errors, inconsistencies, and other issues. Research can help you to identify areas where you need to make changes or add more information. You can also use research to verify the accuracy of your content and ensure that it is up to date.


Formatting is another essential aspect of writing. It involves organizing your content into a visually appealing and easy-to-read format. Research can help you to identify the most effective formatting options for your content.

  • For example, you can use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up your content into sections and make it easier to read.
  • You can also use images, videos, and other multimedia elements to make your content more engaging.

Applying research to your writing process can help you to create accurate, informative, and engaging content that resonates with your audience.

Following these tips for planning, outlining, drafting, editing, and formatting your content, you can create well-organized, visually appealing, and easy-to-read content.

Researching for Fiction Writing

You’ll still need to research if you’re a fiction writer. You may not need to cite every source used in MLA or APA format in every chapter ending, but you may want to cite resources in your appendices.

You’ll want to research things that enhance your story. For example, if your character is a swordsman, you may want to interview a fencing instructor. If your book has a lot of sailing, it could benefit from talking to someone with actual sailing expertise or reading many sailing books.

Once your draft is done, you’ll also want subject matter experts to review your writing to ensure it’s factual – and works within your world. Thank heavens for alpha and beta readers, right?

An image of a senior writer loading paper into typewriter.

Research Skills Beyond Writing

You might think research skills are only necessary for factual or nonfiction writing projects as a writer. However, research skills are essential in other areas of your professional life.

This section will explore how research skills can benefit you in creating resumes, cover letters, and workplace communication.

This is important because not every writer is a full-time writer. These are skills you’ll need in your professional life.

Resumes and Cover Letters

When applying for a job, your resume and cover letter are your first impression on potential employers. Researching the company and the position you are applying for can help you tailor your resume and cover letter to their needs.

Researching the company can help you understand its values, mission, and goals. This information can be used to highlight your skills and experience that align with their needs. Additionally, researching the position can help you understand the required skills and qualifications, which can be included in your resume and cover letter.

Workplace Communication

Effective communication is essential in any workplace. Research skills can help you communicate effectively with colleagues, clients, and superiors.

When sending emails, researching your recipient can help you tailor your message to their communication style. For example, if your recipient is known for being concise, you can keep your message brief and to the point. You can include more information in your message if they prefer detailed explanations.

Research skills can also help you work effectively in a team. When working on a project, researching the topic can help you contribute more effectively to the team’s efforts. Additionally, research can help you identify potential roadblocks or challenges, allowing you to address them proactively.

In conclusion, research skills are not limited to writing projects. They can benefit you in other areas of your professional life, such as creating resumes, cover letters, and workplace communication.

By conducting research, you can tailor your message to your audience, work effectively in a team, and make a positive impression on potential employers.

Key Takeaways

Research is a vital part of the writing process. The exact steps vary depending on your final needs from the research process, but the basics remain the same no matter what.

This article didn’t discuss in-depth steps for conducting interviews with subject matter experts, which is another form of research. But we at least mentioned it – and it’s a deep enough subject to warrant another article – on another day.

So get out there and use research to make your writing richer, deeper, and more meaningful for your audience – no matter what kind of writing you specialize in.

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