How To Research Books: 7 Helpful Steps to Follow

Are you wondering how to research books? Take a look at a few steps you should for the research process for a fiction or nonfiction book.

Conducting book research can be a significant challenge. Whether you are writing nonfiction, historical fiction, or even a fantasy novel, all of the best books have a lot of research involved in the writing process. Therefore, you must ensure you have enough information before writing your first draft. Even though the subject matter can vary significantly from genre to genre, you must have a proven process to ensure you have the correct information to start your next book.

All of the best sellers start from scratch, and the best-selling authors often spend a lot of time at local libraries, on the internet, and talking to book marketing professionals to make sure they put themselves in the best position possible to write a solid book.

Whether you are writing your first novel or have been writing for many years, what are a few writing tips you need to follow for book research?

Materials Needed

If you need to research for your next book, you must ensure you have suitable materials. Some of the materials you need include:

  • A computer with a solid internet connection
  • Writing utensils and a notepad you can use to take notes
  • Folders and subfolders to store complex information, preferably with tabs you can use to keep the labels organized
  • A printer if you need to print out research materials from sources such as Wikipedia
  • Possible photo books and home videos if you plan on using your personal experience
  • A recording device if you plan on conducting interviews with real people for further research

Once you have all of these materials, it is time to start researching the subject matter for your next book. If you plan on interviewing people, remember to prioritize their time. You can review your books or watch your videos almost any time, but the person you want to interview might not always be available. Try not to change the interview time once you schedule it.

How To Research a Book

How to research books: Get yourself organized
Before you start researching, you must make sure you get yourself organized

If you are running a fiction book, you need to think about your plot details, historical period, context, setting, and characters to help you get your story started. If you have a nonfiction book, you should have the historical context, the author’s perspective, and the source’s reliability. This information will inform your perspective on the source material.

Regardless of whether you are writing a novel or short story, there are several steps you need to follow, including:

Step 1: Get Yourself Organized

Before you start researching, you must make sure you get yourself organized. You might have hundreds of pieces of information, but if you have a disorganized mess, you will have difficulty figuring out what to use and when. You might also have a hard time figuring out where certain information came from if you need to consult the source later.

Every writer is a bit different, so think about how to keep yourself organized. A few ideas you may want to consider include:

  • Use a folder or binder labeled sections for different portions of your research. For example, have one folder for settings, one for characters, and one for historical research.
  • Make sure you have a designated digital folder on your hard drive. That way, you always know where everything is located when you need to pull something up for your fiction book.
  • You may want a notebook for various clippings that could be a source of inspiration for your next fiction novel.

You might even want to take advantage of a program specifically designed for people who write novels, such as Scrivener or Evernote. They can make it much easier for you to keep track of your research As you move along. 

Step 2: Start Reading

If you love writing, there is a good chance that you already love reading. Reading is an excellent way to start your next novel because you can use those novels as a source of inspiration. Whether you want to read online articles, newspapers, or books, try to read as much as possible. Of course, you should try to read texts in your specific genre, as they will let you know what people are interested in. On the other hand, it can also be helpful to branch out and explore different types of writing from other genres.

You can figure out what writing styles you like and don’t like. If you are concerned about how much money it will cost to read these different books, you may consider visiting your local library. You should also use the internet to not only research but also to read. 

If you are researching a nonfiction book for a book report, you may want to start with Google Scholar, as it is a great way to access many academic sources in one place. Sometimes, Google Scholar can even help you with your citations. If you have a membership to a library at a local university, you may want to look at surveys, photos, magazines, and journals. It may also benefit you to interview active people in the field.

By talking to experts, you can figure out how to accurately tell your story. Remember to have your notebook with you so that you can take notes on the different types of books and articles you read. You might come across a few ideas you can use for later. 

Step 3: Use Different Types of Media

You might also want to look at documentaries, YouTube videos, and even podcast or radio reviews that discuss the book you’re researching. They can serve as possible sources of inspiration. For example, a professional book citric might have a slightly different take on your research book. Their perspective could serve as a nice counterpoint or foil to your stance. Or, they might have some evidence you can use to support your point of view. If you find something from the video or interview you like, be sure to write down the time stamp. That way, you can return to it later when you start writing. 

Step 4: Explore Different Locations With Real-World Research

Sometimes, stepping out from behind your desk can be helpful, and explore different places. For example, if you want to write a story about the deep sea, you may want to go on a scuba diving trip. If you want to write a thriller about a hiker who tries to tackle a tall mountain, you might want to take a hike yourself. It might even be possible to visit some of the physical locations you want to write about in your story. Along the way, don’t forget to talk to a few people. This will give you some insight into life in that location. That way, your book will be more compelling. 

Step 5: Research Your Style

Do not forget that you must also think about your writing style. Even though you may have all the pieces for a beautiful story, you need to figure out how to tell it. Some of the tips to keep in mind include:

  • You may want to explore a few quick writing exercises to help you perfect your word choice.
  • You might want to figure out how to create tension in your story.
  • Don’t forget to learn how to punctuate dialogue to prevent it from going on forever.
  • You may want to look at what other writers in your field have done in the past. It could also help you figure out how you want to perfect your writing style.

Once you are done, don’t forget to start writing! Once you start putting things on the page, everything will fall into place. 

Step 6: Know When To Go Back for More Research

After you have an outline down on paper, you can start writing. You can take a look at the outline, compare it to your sources, and begin to fill in the gaps. On the other hand, you need to know when to do more research. There might be situations where you feel like you have enough, but in reality, you need more. In that situation, follow the footnotes. If you have a source that you really like but feel like you need more information, take a look at the information in the footnotes. It could be a helpful resource you can use to fill in the gaps. 

Step 7: Cite Your Sources

Before you wrap up your research paper, you must appropriately cite your sources. For example, if you are researching a book for a book report, see if there is a recommended citation style. The rubric might tell you to use MLA, APA, or Chicago Style. Make sure to use the appropriate citation style for the report. If you have trouble citing your sources, you might want to use a citation generator to help you.

First, go back to the original source and see if there is a recommended citation style. You might also be able to find another source that cites the source you are using. If so, you might be able to use their citation for your book report. Citing your sources is critical because you don’t want to get accused of plagiarism.

Tips for Conducting Research

You should keep a few essential tips in mind as you go through the process. Some of the top tips for researching books include:

  • Do Not Procrastinate: Procrastination is your enemy. No matter how long you think research will take, it will always take longer. Therefore, give yourself plenty of time, particularly if you have to reach out to people for interviews.
  • Recent Sources Are Usually Better: If you have many sources available, recent sources are usually better. This is because they tend to follow the best practices in the field. While it might be acceptable to use older sources for historical research, you should try to use newer sources for just about everything else. It is not unusual for older sources, which were once accepted in the field, to be debunked by newer, more recent research.
  • Save It: Do not trust your memory. Not only do you need to remember what was talked about, but you need to remember it accurately. That is why you should always save it. Have a backup copy of your data. Put hard pieces of paper in a folder—record interviews. You will not be able to remember everything from memory.
  • Trust, But Verify: Even though you should trust the research you see, you must verify it. Always think about the quality of your sources, and check them against other sources you come across during your research. In addition, you must make sure you portray the story accurately.
  • Don’t Forget To Start Writing: Eventually, you will need to stop researching and start writing. Even though it can be challenging to figure out when to stop researching, you should take a break from time to time and refer to your outline. Remember that you can always go back and conduct more research if you have to. 

You should embrace the research process, as it is an important part of writing fiction and nonfiction books. Many sources are available, and it is up to you to decide which sources are most relevant to the topic. Remember that using one source for multiple research papers is acceptable as long as it remains relevant. The more practice you have with research, the better you will get at it. 

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Author

  • Meet Rachael, the editor at Become a Writer Today. With years of experience in the field, she is passionate about language and dedicated to producing high-quality content that engages and informs readers. When she's not editing or writing, you can find her exploring the great outdoors, finding inspiration for her next project.