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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Peaslee

Quick Tips for Researching Your Story

I'm very excited to share that a lit mag has accepted one of my stories for publication.


I'm not sharing details yet, because I'm honestly not sure of the etiquette. Am I supposed to share which lit mag before my work has appeared, or is that...bad luck?


I guess I can share which story it is. It's called "A Lucky Star" and it's about a circus performer who learns how far luck can take her.


One thing that I feel helped this story stand out was its attention to detail. It takes place in an unspecified time period but is basically the mid-1800s. I have some anachronistic details, but they're all intentional.


Writing about a time period I've never lived in was a relatively new experience for me. So, I had to do a lot of research. Luckily, I genuinely enjoy research like the nerd I am, so it was fun!


But even when it's not fun, research is vital. Yes, even in fiction writing. You want your story to feel real, right?


Research can also be quite difficult, so I'm hoping to help clear the muddy waters with some tips and tricks.


Google is Your Friend...and Your Enemy


Search Operators

There is no way around it: if you're researching, you need to know how to use a search engine. And I know that sounds really obvious, but there are ways to maximize your search engine efficiency.

So use search operators. Search operators are a great way to filter out the bullshit in your search results.


You probably already know some of the search operators available. For instance, googling something "in quotation marks" will search for that exact phrase.


Other important operators are:


  • OR — as in "circus" OR "aerialist." This will give me results related to either circuses or aerialists, and sometimes overlapping.

  • AND — as in "circus" AND "aerialist." This will return results that are related to both circuses and aerialists.

  • – (Dash) — as in "circus -clown." That will give me results related to circuses while excluding pages related to clowns.


Check out this In-Depth List of 40 Commands to Know in 2024 (kinsta.com) for other operators to streamline your searches.


Academic Search Engines

Google Scholar: make this search engine your new best friend for research. It specifically searches academic sources, like scholarly articles and books. It's the best, even when you're just researching random topics like "medieval dentistry" (again, nerd).


Use the above search operators to maximize the academic search's potential!


There are, of course, other academic search engines, but I'm not as familiar with them: The best academic search engines [Update 2024] - Paperpile


Don't Believe Everything You Google

I probably don't need to spell this one out, but I'm gonna!


Just because it's at the top of Google, doesn't mean it's relevant or even accurate. It just means it's SEO (search engine optimization) savvy.


In Conclusion...

While the research process may seem daunting at times, it's an indispensable tool in crafting immersive stories.


By leveraging search operators and exercising critical thinking when evaluating online sources, you can better navigate the sea of information.


Happy researching and happy writing!



This is you! Researching!
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