Thursday, February 16, 2006

Research Guru

Writing is easy. It only requires three skills. 1. Gather information. 2. Organize information. 3. Write.


I've been writing for many years, and as a result I've learned to interview, research, photograph, file, and write. Then rewrite. Then rerewrite.

When interviewing, never ask a question that can be answered with a Yes or No. For instance, don't ask "Are your sales up this year?" Instead, ask "How much have your sales changed this year, and why?"

As a freelancer for business magazines for many years, in a small ledger book I picked up, I had a list of questions that could be used in every interview. I numbered these. When I interviewed using a tape recorder with a fresh tape and the counter set to zero, I would go through the questions in order. Sometimes a question would generate an interesting aside and I'd jump to a question out of order.

Upon transcribing the interview, I would scribble notes and put the question number next to the number on the tape counter. As a result, if the flow of the article called for information from a particular element of the interview, I could go right there because I had the tape counter number.

The internet is helpful, as well, and learning how to research on it is vital. Talking to my local librarian, he suggested I should write an e-book on how to do research, and said families are always coming into the library asking for help.

I proceeded to show him how second-generation search engines such as Clusty make research much easier. With an engine such as this, information is not just listed one link on top of another the way Google does it. Instead, Clusty makes clusters of sites that have the same attributes. It also can cut the number of listings to a third or less. For instance, I entered "investing" in Google and came up with 100 million sites; Clusty showed some 25 million, and brought 261 up in roughly 40 clusters, such as Funds, Mutual; Money; Socially Conscious Investing; and more.

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