How Much Is Too Much Research?

When researching about a product or novel, you want to think carefully about how to approach something you don’t know. Some take a hands on approach while others are more cautious and use the internet. This post discusses how some research can be taken too far and how to prevent yourself from serious consequences.


Make sure that you are not buying or looking up anything illegal.

This was used with a Creative Common License by Flickr user Tony Webster.

This was used with a Creative Common License by Flickr user Tony Webster.

If you know you’re writing about questionable content, do the smart thing and don’t invest in books that aren’t legal in your country. This is one way to get on national security lists and then it’ll make your life harder.

There was a writer who looked up how to make bombs on the internet for her novel and bought books that made her character questionable. Unfortunately, she attracted the wrong kind of attention, which made it hard for this person to seek gainful employment with a computer company years later. Eventually she did land a job, but was asked why she was investigated at her interview. She almost got passed on the job because of that one incident.


Ask professionals for an idea that you can use instead of laying it all out there.

In this case, less is more. Readers like to use their imagination and not feel like they are stupid. In fact, some will thank you for this.

If you have to look up something questionable ask a professional so they can give you a general idea. You won’t get the whole answer and you’ll know enough that readers will get that you’re knowledgeable.


If you think you need to do physical research, you’re safer checking the internet.

This picture was used with a Creative Common License by Flickr user Nicola.

This picture was used with a Creative Common License by Flickr user Nicola.

Do yourself a favor—don’t try any stunts that will get you hurt. You do not need to know how to body slam someone or special techniques to shoot a gun. If you do, good for you. But most readers will get bored reading that stuff and skip to the good part—where the guy is either injured or dead.


Use reputed sites for internet research.

Contrary to popular belief, Wikipedia is not the most reliable resource because others can edit content at any time. If you are looking for medical terms, anatomy, crime scene investigation or other complex matters, consider using realistic resources. Google the term you are looking for and you should find a few other sites other than Wikipedia. See how reputable the sites are before using any research.


If you’re not able to research it—go to groups and see what you can find.

Social media is a big thing! Use the groups in G+ and Facebook to your advantage. You never know who you’re going to meet or what you will find. Many people friend others because they’re in groups and you could possibly get a fanbase with this method.

What has worked for you when doing research? Anything that you like to share for fellow writers?


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