Research Is More Than Gathering Sources

Team Lioness: Anti-poaching rangers in Kenya.
Photo by International Fund for Animal Welfare on

Earlier this week, I blogged about researching both fiction and nonfiction and just how much research is necessary. When you are doing your research, you need to remember that not all sources are created equally.

Last Sunday, I started doing research on Kenya. This isn’t for a writing project although if I keep reading ideas will start popping into my head. This is because my church is working with a minister from Kenya who works with the street children. I know next to nothing about Kenya and I want to remedy that. So I immediately looked to see what I can find.

I found a series set in Kenya. The Heat of the Sun takes place in Nairobi in the 1930s. It is a British production.

I found numerous single episode documentaries and lots of children’s books about wildlife in Kenya. That’s interesting enough but animal nut that I am, I already know a lot about this aspect of Kenya. I want to learn more about the people.

And I want to learn it from a Kenyan perspective. As a colonized people, Kenyan’s are going to tell their story very differently than Brits will tell it.

The Heat of the Sun may be about the colonial experience, but it isn’t pro-British. The protagonist is a rebel which is how he ended up in Kenya. Scotland Yard didn’t want him underfoot once he disregarded the British class system. There is a female pilot and a doctor who is German and Jewish. There are African characters galore and many of them are portrayed as smart and capable. But they are not the ones who solve the mystery, save the child from the burning building, and literally save the day.

One competent white man does it all.

Yes, this example is fiction but nonfiction will still be colored by the lens through which it is perceived. To learn about Kenya, I need to find Kenyan material in English. It won’t be easy but it will bring me much closer to a Kenyan reality.


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