Writing for Magazines --Part 11
By June Campbell
Part 11: Research
Writing for magazines generally requires research. With good research skills, you can write articles about almost any topic imaginable. Admittedly, the more you know about your topic to begin with, the easier it is.
However, unfamiliarity with your topic should not dissuade you. I have written articles on topics about which I knew absolutely nothing - cooking with dandelions, licensing terms for Vista, HDTV, modern dance, construction projects…. You get the idea.
Research Suggestions to get you Started when Writing for Magazines.
1. Your interview sources, as discussed in Part 10 of this series.
2 Your own bookshelves. If you're a long time reader, you never know what goodies are hiding in the back corner of your bookshelf. I often find material in my own collections, or in my friends' collections that offers good research material.
3. Your local library. Libraries offer a wealth of information - in books, in magazines, in newspaper clippings, in directories and in their digital databases. You may be able to search the databases from your home computer since many are now online. Failing that, librarians are remarkably helpful people and usually go the extra mile to help you find what you want. I once wrote a series of company histories for an international directory, relying solely on newspaper clippings available at my local library.
4. Google and other Internet Search Engines. I know you are familiar with basic Google searches, but did you know Google has special features that search news releases, images available on the Internet, maps, videos, scholarly articles, groups and much more.
5. Yahoo Groups. Yahoo has thousands of email groups on every topic imaginable. Run a search using your keyword and see what turns up. Some groups require you to join before you can read messages. Others allow you to read messages without joining. You might also locate interview sources here. ( groups.yahoo.com)
6. Online Article Directories and Social Networking Sites such as such as Ezine Articles (ezinearticles.com), Squidoo (www.squidoo.com) and many others contain thousands of articles or "lenses" as Squidoo calls them. Search by keywords and tags. Be aware that these sites do not verify or fact check information presented in articles. You take your chances.
7. Encyclopedias. If you don't have a set in your book shelf and the library is inconvenient, try the online encyclopedias such as the free Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/) and the Encyclopedia Britanica (www.britannica.com/). Be aware that factual errors have surfaced in Wikipedia's content.
8. Industry Associations and other associations. These organizations often have informative documents and materials specific to their industry. Try the Web sites first, or phone for information.
Now a word about copying directly from other sources. In short, don't do it without permission. It's a copyright violation, unless the material you copy is in the public domain.
You may, however, copy short snippets of content provided you attribute it to the source. This is called "the fair use clause" and it is included in the Copyright Conventions that many countries of the world have agreed upon. As for how much is a short snippet… that is a matter that sometimes gets debated in court. You're safe with a couple of sentences, however.
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