One Writer’s Journey

August 14, 2014

Experts: Primary Sources that give you the Last Word on a Topic

Filed under: Uncategorized — suebe @ 1:11 am
Tags: , , ,

ExpertI’m working on a new nonfiction topic and, as usual, I’ve picked a tough one.  I say as usual because this is the second project I’ve done that features a large number of different animals.  Last time it included octopus, flounder, bittern, zorilla and jaguar.  This time, I’ve researched house flies, white-tailed deer, bull frogs and rats.

The problem with all of this animal research is trying to find accurate biology on either pest animals or game animals.  Scientists research exotics but things closer to home aren’t as “sexy” and don’t draw as much attention. A lot of the information that I do find is anecdotal or what I lovingly call folksy.  I need science with real research.  I know that’s narrow minded of me but it seems to make my editors happy.

Sometimes I think I have enough information until I try to write.  As I try to describe whatever process, I just can’t pull it together.  That’s when I know I don’t have enough information.  What to do?

  1. Do another search.  Usually I’ve refined my knowledge and can come up with better key words by now but that doesn’t always mean that I can find additional articles.  Still, I try.
  2. Look for a name.  Whether I’ve found 2 articles or 10, if my knowledge is incomplete, I need to find more.  I pull up the most helpful article and look for a name.  Who wrote the article?  Who did this person interview?
  3. Send an e-mail.  If the author of the helpful article was the expert, that’s who I e-mail.  If not, I look for people they might have interviewed.  In my e-mail, I introduce myself as a children’s writer.  “I’m not sure I understand this and I want to make sure that I don’t mislead my readers.”
  4. Wait.  Once I’ve sent out the e-mail, it’s time to work on something else.  If I haven’t heard from anyone in two or three days, I look for another person to contact but I’m always amazed by the number of busy researchers who want to teach kids about their topic.

Going to the experts is the best way for me to find the information that I need to create a clear explanation picture for my readers.  Experts always know more than they’ve written.  Fortunately, they are often more than willing to share.

–SueBE

 

 

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