Writing Tutorials: The Process of Online Research Writing
Online Research: Tips and Tricks
Online research and the writing of informative text can be a rewarding process for a writer. Not only are you developing your own knowledge you are providing it as a source. Think about the latest breakthroughs that are announced day in and day out on the news. Viewers search the Internet for information on these topics. These could be YOUR viewers. Your efforts will deliver knowledge, provide textual support and include cited sources for your readers. Continued delivery will increase your fan base, promote your credibility and will fuel returning readers.
I will guide you through the steps of preparing and documenting online research, developing your pre-writing skills, empowering yourself with reflective editing and publishing of your respective text. Provided are links to sites which will further enhance your research, your writing process and the promotion of your published work.
Research and Writing Guide: Methods and Styles
Now more than ever it is easy to research just about any topic on the Internet. You can research diseases, treatments, creatures and features. However, where you find your material may not always be so credible. I'll offer a few tips and ideas as to how you can feel a bit more assured in regard to credibility. Organization can be a bit of an issue as well. You have to organize your presentation and your research. A rough draft is actually pretty helpful if you are writing on a fairly extensive topic. Try to keep the reader's perspective in mind when drafting. What information might your reader be looking for and are you delivering it? A good way to reflect on the reader's perspective is to ask yourself, "I know what I'm trying to say, but does the reader really understand?". Think of it this way. Roads have signs and lines for a reason. You will want to guide your reader through your text in the same way. If your presentation is not organized you are creating an unfocused roadmap to your topic and points of interest.
A note about the process - find what works for you. We are all unique in our writing style. Topics vary and so does motivation. Keep in mind that this hub is simply a guide in helping you organize your topic, research, drafting, editing and publishing. Developing your process should be as unique as your writing style and perspective.
- Topic reflection, search engines and consulting.
- Using graphic organizers or outlines to begin your draft.
- Avoiding plagiarism, understanding paraphrasing, quoting and citing.
- Steps to plan, draft, revise and edit your work.
- Formatting and subtitles - guiding your reader.
- Publishing and marketing.
SEO and more
Before you can reflect on a topic you'll need to choose one. Inspiration can be found in graphics, songs, conversations, topic threads, blogs as well as daily news or radio shows. These are just some of the venues that may provide inspiration for you. Online magazines and news sites offer great ideas as well. Try to pick topics that you may be passionate about or at the very least interested in. This will help provide a nice voice in your writing. It is always nice to read a hub, blog or article from someone emotionally or professionally vested in the topic.
Once you pick your topic -
Topic Reflection - Jot down the following words; Who, What, When, Where, How and Why. With your topic in mind try to answer each of these question prompts. You might need to do a bit of research to get this step done. This will add insight to your topic reflection. Analyze each of your responses and decide which ones you want to focus on. Keep this list and draft handy for further reference during your pre-writing. You will also want to jot down any links you may have already found.
Searching and Search Engines - Refining your search can be a bit daunting at times. Keeping it credible is an additional challenge. Here are a few tips.
- Google Scholar - This particular engine should be bookmarked if you will be seeking credible sources. When you search through Google Scholar you will only be provided with credible journals, studies and publications of your topic. You can even narrow down your search with a drop-down timeline.
- Academia - Google, Bing and Yahoo are not the only search engines. There are several less well known yet extremely reliable academic engines as well. Universities and professors are great sources for offering search engines. Use your resources. If you have a university nearby there are many students and staff members available at the library computer labs to suggest academic search engines. For example; Writing on rocks? Seek out a Geology professor or graduate student. Remember, be respectful and clear with your intentions. Some academic search engines to consider are; RefSeek, Microsoft Academic Search, BASE, LexisNexis
- News Sites, Magazines and Newspapers - These are great sources as well. Many articles within these sites will include source citations, author's and dates. Many also automatically list additional article links within the same theme or idea. Here are the most popular; CNN, FOX, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Huffington Post, TIME
- Theme specific websites - There are a growing number of theme specific websites. Good sources can include high ranking advocacy groups. For example; Autism Society of America, American Heart Association, or the American Diabetes Association would be great theme specific sites. They usually offer great articles on the latest breakthroughs, legal reform, therapies and treatments.
- Forums - Search the forums for any threads on your topic. See what your colleagues have to say. Open up a forum of your own. Feedback is a great way to help you find direction with your respective topic. Plus, it is always a good idea to see what has been written about your topic. This will further inspire your direction and angle.
- Facebook - Believe it or not Facebook can be a good lead. You can find several "pages" that are theme specific. These pages usually add links to their status on a regular basis. You might find just the right article or comment thread.
Evaluating Sources - The key to being a good source analyst is to be reflective. Here are some things to ponder as you create your source list;
- Is the source a primary or second source?
- Is the source reliable? Are statements as fact supported or merely opinions?
- Is it accurate and trustworthy? Are citations, publications and credentials identified.
- Is the information current? Seek out dates through time-lines in your respective search engines. Generally, a credible author will provide sources, dates and links.
TIP 1 - keep the "evaluating sources" in mind when writing your text. You will want to apply your checklist to yourself if you want viewers to see you as credible.
TIP 2 - Build your bibliography - As sources add up you will want to create a bibliography of source links. Your bibliography can be created in Word and can be used as your "go to" page as you develop your research. Once you finalize your product you can choose which links to include as your sources at the end of your hub, blog or respective article. Remember, online authors usually develop a niche of topic preferences. Therefore, if you are writing in these same areas you will always have your bibliography as a reference. Time travels fast so keep them updated with the latest information.
TIP 3 - Citing academic forums and articles from colleagues is a great way to help build credibility and camaraderie. You can link to each other's work and quote each other's findings. Interviewing professionals in your topic area is a great tool as well. A journalistic approach is actually very interesting and rewarding.
Example hubs for analyzing source citing. You might want to consider viewing how I cited my sources at the bottom of Benefits of Blueberries. You will notice I identified and briefly described the claim, the study and the link. This is not exactly MLA form, but it does keep my reading audience informed. In Benefits of Tart Cherry Juice I cite the studies throughout the article and then include them at the bottom with hyperlinks. The point is this - it tells the reader I am not simply stating my own claims or opinions - I am basing them on scientific fact. Again, the goal is credibility with supportive text.
Samples of Graphic Organizers, click to enlarge
Organize your pre-writing with graphic organizers
Graphic Organizers - Word maps and grids are a great way to organize your thoughts on paper. Many of us have gotten so used to our computer keyboard that we forget the beauty and flexibility of scribbling thoughts. My word maps are usually with a main topic circle in the middle with various bubbles coming from it. Each bubble represents the supporting details and sub topics that you want to cover. Others make grids with the Who, What, When, Where and How questions. Fill in the grid with the points and sources you want to explore or elaborate on. You can also jot down the links of the sources you will be using for each bubble.
Outlines - These are great for preparing chronological order within your various sub-titles and paragraphs. Consider providing a "letter" for each sub-topic/paragraph and a number list for each supporting detail below it. For example;
A; Main Idea of Paragraph Two
- supporting detail one
- supporting detail two
- supporting detail three
B; Main Idea of Paragraph Three
- supporting detail one
- supporting detail two
- supporting detail three
Note Cards - I've used these before because they are easy to rearrange. Each note card represents a paragraph or sub-topic. Add your supporting details and sources in bullet form. Once you have prepared your card (they can be brief) place them in the order that best suits your topic. You end up with a literal cut n paste option as you organize your draft.
I've provided some examples for you to the right of this text. You may click to enlarge as needed.
Plagiarism and paraphrasing
Knowing the difference between plagiarism and paraphrasing - If you copy it you are plagiarizing. If you only rephrase some of the words you are STILL plagiarizing. If you rephrase it completely in your own words you are paraphrasing. However, just because you paraphrased does not mean you do not cite your source.
As you do your research you will find many interesting sites. You'll find many examples of text that you will want to elaborate on or use.
- Quoting exact text - If you use the exact words you must add quotations and cite the source.
- Paraphrasing - if you directly paraphrase a source you must still cite the source. However, if you are completely revamping the text and adding elements, facts, opinions and ideas it is now your product. However, play it safe and cite your sources - even if they were just inspiration.
A word on determining if an article is plagiarized and evaluating if your own work is plagiarized. The Internet now provides sites for analyzing plagiarism. It is always a good idea to keep a vigilant eye on the fruits of your labor. Here are some to consider; Copyscape, Plagiarism Checker, Plagiarisma.net
evaluating your plan and setting up your draft
What exactly is drafting? Drafting is the skeleton of your work. You may want to break this down into three areas; beginning, middle and end. Others break it down through their outline or subtitles. Regardless, you should begin creating the chronological order of your text. Keep fluidity and clarity in mind during drafting.
Beginning - The opening paragraph is your hook and introduction. You will want to pull in your reader with an engaging introduction. Remember, the purpose of the opening paragraph is to grab the reader's attention, to introduce the topic and to give the reader a peek into your perspective of the topic. This would be the appropriate time to create a clear thesis statement. Thinking of your opening paragraph as your main idea can also help you stay on track. Leave the elaboration of supporting detail for your main body of work.
Middle - Your middle paragraphs or body of work should be dedicated to your supporting details. Your supporting details should support your main idea and perspective. However, you would want to create a topic sentence for each of your paragraphs. I like to think of each paragraph as mini essays. This helps me organize the skeleton and cohesiveness of each paragraph. Thus, supporting my overall theme as well as the main idea of my respective paragraph. Be sure to provide effective proof and support for your statements. This will help keep you from sounding heavily opinionated without any supportive evidence. Keep transitions in mind as you flow from one paragraph to the next. You do not want your flow to be choppy. Each paragraph should support the next.
Ending - You will want to bring your research into a thoughtful close. Visually imagine your middle paragraphs flowing into a funnel towards the closing paragraph. This is a nice opportunity to provide your reader with a summary of your main points and to reestablish your perspective, opinion or point. Close with a final perspective or thought. Keep in mind that your reader should not feel like they have been led to an edge of a dead end plank.
How to edit and revise
After you have written your article, blog or hub you will want to edit and revise. This is an extremely important step. First, you will want to read and reread your text. Your target areas are as follows;
- Focus and Coherence
- Progression of Ideas
- Voice & Tone
Be reflective in your evaluation -
Focus and Coherence - Is work organized in a way which avoids inconsistencies? Does each paragraph offer a topic with supportive text? Are sources cited or referred to clearly and in the right place? Are the sentences relevant or redundant? Do sentences need to be added for stronger emphasis? Are you making random claims without textual support? Add and remove as needed.
Organization - Are your conclusions drawn from the text? Is evidence presented in a meaningful way? Do paragraphs flow well? Are transitions and introductions of paragraphs relevant? Did you suddenly throw out a random opinion without support?
Progression of Ideas
- Is my text dry?
Use figurative language to add depth and imagery with literary devices such as; similes, metaphors, hyperboles, repetition and rhetorical questions. That's right, literary devices are not exclusive to creative writing. Literary devices add symbolism, style and tone to your voice and perspective of the topic.
Examples of figurative language in informative text. Lets use - Industry and Rain Forests -
- simile, Industry is like a raging fire in the Rain Forest.
- metaphor, The Rain Forest is a panting victim within the brush and haze. (panting also creates personification since a forest does not pant)
- hyperbole, Activists ferociously battle against the bully.
- repetition, Greed feeds destruction, greed seeds destruction and greed leads destruction.
- rhetorical question, How small will the Rain Forest become before Industry leaves its prey?
Evaluating VOICE & TONE - Look for emphasis with precision words. Always remember your audience, genre and purpose when evaluating voice. Look for vague words and replace them with effective synonyms. You want your reader to CONNECT with your perspective and knowledge. You will want to analyze whether you are providing engaging and clear informative examples. In other words, deliver and support. Don't have a sink or swim attitude when writing. Guide and support your reader through your text.
Tone Tips - What IS tone? Tone is the author's attitude. Remember the saying, "watch your tone!". The same holds true with your writing and delivery. If you are writing informative text (emphasis on INFORMATIVE) on say - The Nesting Characteristics of Bowerbirds - the reader doesn't really want to hear your irrelevant and possibly snooty connotations. However, if you are advocating the - Protection of Bowerbirds - you are allowed to deliver a bit more tone. Respectfully of course.
Voice & Tone References
You will want to reread and seek out any required corrections for grammar conventions.
- Grammar - Are pronouns used correctly? Are verbs used in the appropriate tense? Past or present? Are conjunctions appropriate?
- Mechanics - Evaluate commas, semi-colons and punctuation. Are spacings correct between sentences and paragraphs? Did I accidentally apply double punctuation marks? Did I accidentally double space? Are quotation marks used appropriately?
- Spelling - Unfortunately, you cannot always trust spell check. Spell check will not pick up things like "her" instead of "here" - "an" instead of "and". You might have accidentally written "their" instead of "there" or "they're".
Regardless, read and reread your text with a discerning and critical eye. You wouldn't want to leave the house with your slip showing, your zipper down or with toilet paper stuck to your shoe. So groom your text and fix your flaws.
Format and design
Once you have edited and revised you will almost have finalized your hard work. Now it is time to think of presentation. Consider and evaluate headings, subtitles and images for your work.
- Which areas do you want to emphasize?
- Which headings would provide an effective road-map for the reader? Are headings clear and relevant?
- Which graphics clearly depict your point? Are the images clean, clear and effective? Do the images support the text or do they confuse your reader? Are images clearly cited with the source? Need photos? Try - Free Photo Websites for Blogs and Hubs
- Do paragraphs cascade clearly yet freely from one to the next?
- Check what you have underlined, italicized and placed in bold. Are these used consistently across your text? If your use of font elements are not consistent you might confuse your reader and thus create a not so credible vibe.
It is finally time to deliver your bundle of joy - figuratively speaking of course.
All your research, planning and drafting, editing and revising, formatting and applying graphics have been carefully cultivated into a beautifully written product. Now is that lovely moment of feeling accomplished and clicking that long anticipated publish button. I hate to halt your anticipation, but this is the time to think of yourself as an online marketing guru. What good is all your work if no one reads it? Here are some things to consider...
- tags - make sure to apply effective tags. Tags should be related to your topic. Many sites including HubPages offers tag suggestions. Remember, tags directly affect search engine visibility. Use your main idea and supporting details when applying tags. Simply reduce them into keywords.
- when to publish - this issue can be a bit trivial, but worthy of mention. Try to publish your work during busy reading times. Think of the 9 to 5 employee. You will want to consider when they might log in to your respective sites - before 9 and after 5. Therefore, publish your work at those times. You might want to avoid publishing between midnight and 6am. You'll notice MANY using those times to accumulate followers on HubPages and your publication might get pushed down in the newsfeed.
- marketing - you know the ol' real estate quote? "Location Location Location". The same holds for your marketing techniques with online writing, but you can also add, "LINK LINK LINK".
Locations for sending links - Twitter, your personal Blogs, Facebook Pages, Email and even through texting. Keep an eye out for emerging social media options, this area is constantly evolving. Get your links out and develop a support team that will help promote your work. The ol' adage, "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" holds very true in the world of online writing. Promote your online writing buddies with enthusiasm and vigor and they shall do the same for you. Camaraderie is essential to mutual success.
Get Set, Go!!!
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Marisa Hammond Olivares