Research is a wonderful tool for a writer, no matter if you’re word wrestling a term paper or writing a potential best-selling fiction novel. Factual evidence plays a part in either story or should. We are living in a world of pictures with words slapped on them that are peddled as the truth. The reality of alternative facts used as a hot button phrase to spin a false narrative into a factual baseline. Even numeric statistics can be skewed and strong convictions can sway someone from questioning a statement—even when that statement is proven completely false. We have to make a concerted effort to weed through the muck of misinformation and refute it with a solid counter. Several paths will take us on our journey to knowledge. We must but step forward and ask for claims to be supported with citations from credible sources. Good journalism, it would seem, is a rare commodity.
As a writer, I love the prospect of researching a topic—sometimes to the point of burning days on one particular oddity for a story. I understand the value of not relying one source for information. For example, I’ve bought books written by experts on guns that go into depth on the mechanics and what type of ammunition each type would use. What I couldn’t get from reading was how to hold a gun or the distinct sound one makes when fired. Sure, I could ask law enforcement or one of my military friends but that gives me their perspective. How could I write with emotion with someone else’s words? My solution was to ask a friend to take me out to the firing range. Through that, I felt the deadly power pulsing in that little piece of constructed metal bits. Each buck as the bullet discharged from the 9mm or the impact to my shoulder when the shotgun shell hurled at top speed through the barrel. With this information gathering, I can be confident in inserting this knowledge into any future novel.
On the other side, deciding on the exact audience I want to capture is a little more tenuous. I’ve written in several genres. I could take the approach that most people might be like me and read more than just one type of fiction. However, that would be a big assumption based on nothing but shaking the magical eight ball of faux wisdom. When I read an article online, I honestly can’t pinpoint the intended audience. I know I’m part of the key because I clicked the link and was engaged. So I could rationalize that people of like mind would also enjoy the article. That still gives me little to go on. Presumption isn’t a very good virtue. It’s a fallacy we carry in our pocket.
Still we must learn the art of research to succeed in college. Every subject employs the tactic in one form or another. Our teachings go beyond the textbook. By using multiple sources, distinguishing fact from falsehood will be easier to spot. This isn’t going to convince everyone to your side of the line. An impassioned plea could stir emotion. That human element is a strong ally. Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech, for example. In the end, supporting your argument with facts—whether by expert opinion or diligent research—will be the cornerstone to the validity of your statements. Think of The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. Petruchio claims that the sun is the moon yet Katherine rebukes his claim. This is a test of wills between the two would-be lovers and while the statement of Petruchio is false in every sense of the word he expects Katherine to see it as truth. These are the circumstances we could find ourselves embroiled in today if a conscious effort is not made to question one’s reasoning. To ask why someone believes their opinion is rational and all knowing. We are the seekers of knowledge. Otherwise, we wouldn’t grasp debt and sleepless nights like a newborn.