Monday, 9 March 2015

Researching Your Feature Article: Diligent Investigation and Inquiry


All I`m armed with is research. (Mike Wallace, former 60 Minutes correspondent)



As a columnist with the Toronto Star, Pierre Berton pounded out 1500 words a day, 5 days a week on his Smith Corona typewriter.  It would have been easy for one article to roll into the next, for his writing to become tedious.  But that didn`t happen.  In his lifetime, Mr. Berton received over 30 literary awards, a dozen honourary degrees and a companion of the Order of Canada.  Key to his success was his attention to detail, his commitment to the facts.  For more about Pierre Berton, visit http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2011/11/tapping-keys-on-smith-corona.html.

As a feature article writer, research is tantamount.  It involves "diligent investigation and inquiry into a subject", according to writer Bruce Garrison in Professional Feature Writing
(http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Feature-Writing-Routledge-Communication/dp/0805847650). Research doesn`t mean making one visit to the library and then calling it a day.  Or reading one article about a subject.  Garrison suggests that for every ten hours of research, put in one hour of writing.  Therefore, the bulk of your time should be spent gathering information. 

How do you know how much research is enough?  "When you feel that one more fact will be a fact too many, you`ll know it`s time to stop," according to Bobbi Linkemer (http://www.freelancewriting.com/articles/writing-feature-articles-that-sell.php).  

When you are writing your feature article, remember that readers need repetition.  Layer your writing with your reporting.  Fiona Veitch Smith recommends using a cue sheet on which you record relevant page numbers, paragraphs from books, highlighted sections of Internet articles and clippings from the newspaper (http://non-fiction-writing-course.thecraftywriter.com/how-to-write-a-feature-article/).

William Blundell, in The Art and Craft of Feature Writing, talks about the Rule of Threes (http://journalistsresource.org/syllabi/syllabus-feature-writing).  First of all, when checking facts, make sure you corroborate at least three different sources.  When stating a thesis, back it up with three different examples.  And when presenting your case, offer each point in three different ways;  a fact, an example and a quote.

Remember to give credit where credit`s due.  Cite your sources.  For information on how to cite print or online sources, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Citing_sources#Newspaper_articles.

Keep these points in mind before you write your next article.  While you may not be Canada`s next Pierre Berton, at least you will be well informed.

Today, there are a plethora of resources right at your fingertips, including:

1.  Media libraries ex. large newspapers & magazines (http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/databases/)




5.  Historical Society Libraries



8.  Reference Books ex. World Almanac and Book of Facts


10.  Atlases or Gazetteers ex. National Geographic Atlas of the World

11.  Encyclopedias or Yearbooks ex. specialized encyclopedia with experts sources like the Encyclopedia of Associations

12.  Abstracts ex. summaries of books, articles, theses (http://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/presentations_abstracts_examples.html)

13.  Chronologies ex. a list of events in chronological order

14.  Dictionaries ex. Black`s Law Dictionary

15.  Books of Quotations ex. Bartlett`s Familiar Quotes

16.  Handbooks ex. Guinness Book of World Records











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