How I Did Research For 3 New York Times Bestselling Authors (in My Spare Time)

How I Did Research For 3 New York Times Bestselling Authors (in My Spare Time)

Reader Comments (32)

  1. Terrific post! I’m a big fan of filing away little bits of research. I agree with you that the “filing process” usually leads to the writing piece, not the other way around.

  2. I think research is fun. Research assignments are opportunities to learn, dig around, ask questions, and have a good reason to do it. A chance to ask people questions you would never have the courage to ask otherwise, and to experience them answering with information they would never otherwise divulge. Letting the sources guide you is the best way, since preconceived plans are as yet uninformed by . . . research.

  3. Loved this post. What valuable tips and strategies. You’ve encouraged me to keep falling down that rabbit hole.

    I’m one of the weird people who actually love researching. Your practice of putting your finds on index cards is exactly what I did for academic research, but have since relied on the digital versions. You remind me that there is no process to compare with spreading those cards out on a table to see the connections and organize the use.


  4. Ryan,

    Excellent work brother… I’d have to say that I am guilty of too often writing without research pulling only from own examples, which has it’s own power, but when coupled with powerful and thought out research elevates the game.

    Thank you

    Ryan Hanley

  5. I’ll add my name to the list of weird ones who actually enjoy research and the kind of reading that goes with it most of the time. In college, I liked writing the longer papers because of the research. Funny part about that is most of my adult writing life has been either journalistic or blogging though I have written 2 books also.

    This article reminded me of skills I should probably get back to using more often and I gleaned a few new tips as well. Thank you!

  6. Love it, Love it, Love it!

    Ryan, your article made me very happy. Finally, something to justify my never ending collection of books and love of all things research. Personally, the idea of reading at least one book mentioned or cited in a book you are using as research is a great idea. Thank you for this.

  7. It intrigues me how much the internet has changed research–when you can go exactly to the fact you need without having to shuffle through stacks of information you save time, but you can also miss out on those serendipitous kernels. This was such a nice reminder that it’s okay to pursue the really interesting stories and anecdotes even when I’ve already got the “fact” I needed and so it feels a little indulgent to keep following my curiosity down rabbit holes instead of just using what I’ve got.

  8. I Love the commoplace book idea – I’ve been keeping a list of favorite quotes on my iphone for some time.

    Anyone have any links to resources on how to effectively use Evernote? I like it so far, but I know I’m missing out on functionality.

  9. Talk about synchronicity!

    I’m co-writing/ghost writing a screenplay and my client was stuck and I said, “Hold on! Let me do a Google search.” I found what he was looking for. He said to me, “Wow! That was quick. How did you find that?” My response, “Because I know how to search Google, and I love research.”

    “In other words, don’t look for just any needle in your haystack of choice. Look for the right needle.” Tweetable sound bite.

    Thanks for this wonderful post on research.

  10. There are sooooooo many great takeaways from this article, but the key idea (I believe) comes about when Ryan writes: “Go down the rabbit hole (embrace serendipity).”

    Google IS the greatest rabbit hole ever invented. But it’s not a rabbit hole filled with completely unrelated facts, figures, or random writings. With just a little bit of focus and self-direction for guidance (but not TOO much of either one), Google becomes the rabbit hole that reveals the connections – strong connections and weak connections – between related concepts, events, and people.

    • I find the notecards to be way better than digital. As Raymond Chandler said, if you have to use energy to write it down, you’re more likely to make it count.

  11. Great article, Ryan, inspiring and helpful.

    The commonplace book idea made me think of Emerson, who carried slips of paper in in his pockets and jotted notes, quotes and ideas all day long. Later, he spread them out on his writing table and went to work. He described his essay collection as a raft, “only boards & logs tied together.” It turned out to be a pretty seaworthy raft.

    Congrats on the release of your new book.

  12. Yes, I am a lover of research too. So many unexpected things turn up. Researching my new book, I found a phone number on a website for the leading authority and researcher in the field. I called it. Would you believe? He answered the phone. We talked and he is now interested in my project. I was so surprised. I thought an exchange or employee would answer. Love it when this happens. Congrats on your new book.

  13. A solid post. I can spend days just bouncing around the internet picking up little tidbits of information. Evernote is one of the greatest inventions ever to a researcher like me. Your lessons will give structure to my research efforts and best of all it stops me from feeling guilty about having so much unread material.

    All The Best

  14. What would we do without google? I cannot remember the last time researched something in any other place other than on the internet. I know it has been a few years at least.

  15. You are a brave soul. I did my share of research in grad school. Maybe I’m old-school, but I still think a university library is a better place to research than Google, but that’s changing. Now I’m a full-time college instructor and a single dad. I’m also a writer and blogger. Thanks for the post. You’ve inspired me to get off my but and do more research.

  16. Thanks for a great post, Ryan! All good advice, though No. 3 about going down the rabbit hole and embracing serendipity particularly resonated with me based on past personal success with that approach.

  17. Hi Ryan! Great advice and certainly doing research if you know whats are your end goal to do it and choose the best way to do it and certainly these things can only be learned through experience.

    Thanks for sharing great tips and worthy information.

  18. I do have a lot of books in my small library that I haven’t read yet, but as you said, when I need them, I can get them anytime.

  19. Thanks for such an in-depth post with tips that writers, bloggers, leisure readers, students, research assistants & more can all read and learn something valuable.

    I took a particular liking to the Anti-Library concept.

    I’m big on thrifting, and I can never seem to leave a thrift shop without at least one more book to add to my collection.

    Before reading this article, it would bother me a bit that I had all these books that I never got around to reading. Now I see how incredible my library is as a knowledgebase.

    Congrats on your book also !

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