Vision: A Resource f

 Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor
zette@cableone.net

 

Research On the Go

By D. M. Bonanno
2005,
D. M. Bonanno

 

Not enough time for research?  Only if you're a writer who believes research is conducted by spending hour after hour digging through library stacks, piling the books around yourself and reading until your eyes are threatening to leap from their sockets.  Information can be effectively absorbed in small doses, sitting down or on the go, and in ways that may surprise you.  You've made the time to write; now you need to find the time to research.

"I have friendships to maintain."  By all means socialize, but realize that sometimes the waiting part of a meeting is an incredible waste of time.  Don't meet at the coffee shop, where you can spend fifteen to twenty minutes standing around; meet at the library.  Sure there's no latte, but there are reference books and specialized encyclopedias to browse.

Take an interest in your friends' lives.  They possess a wealth of information which they impart to you when they complain about work, rant about other problems, and celebrate important life events.  There's also the direct approach, where you ask them about their experiences and philosophies.  Many people enjoy talking about themselves, and won't mind answering your questions.     

"My children require supervision."  Family trips to the museum can both entertain children and fulfill your research needs.  Museums are visually oriented in design but appeal to other senses as well.  The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois has a tank that allows visitors to pet the starfish.  The Museum of Science and Industry, also in Chicago, once exhibited the interior of an early passenger aircraft which visitors were allowed to walk through.  Experiences such as these can be valuable for your books.

"I'm not in good health."  How much time have you wasted in doctors' waiting rooms?  Go ahead, pick up a magazine while you wait, but skip your favorites.  Select one you normally wouldn't read.  Unfamiliar subjects will stimulate your mental processes, or bore you beyond tears.  These pieces may introduce an aspect of life for your characters, or provide sources for your nonfiction writing.  If you dislike or disagree with an article, write a better one.

"I barely have time for errands."  Check-out lines are a blessing in disguise.  Whether you're at a supermarket, hardware or craft store, not only will you be able to observe other people and their reactions to their environment, you can 'check out' the items that are marketed to this crowd: candy racks and gossip magazines at the grocery store; screwdriver and home improvement knick knacks at the hardware store; hobby magazines at the craft store.  From these items alone, you can now list brand names for items you normally wouldn't purchase, or you may be ready to develop your character's skills based on a hobby you studied while waiting in that line.

 

"I manage a busy household."  Place books and magazines in strategic locations so you can reference them during short breaks. 

  • In the garage or car, while the vehicle warms up and windows defrost.
  • In the bathroom, while shower water heats and bathtubs drain.
  • In the kitchen, while the oven preheats or bagels toast.
  • By the door, while family members tie shoes and search for wallets and eyeglasses and hit the bathroom one last time.
  • In your purse or jacket pocket, to eliminate the need to choose a book to take with you on the go.

Preparation Is Half The Battle

Library time should be used carefully.  Whether you're supervising children or working solo, spend this time researching your topic on library computers.  Make a list of the books you'd like to borrow.  If one isn't available at your local branch, you don't need to chase all over town; your librarian may be able to have it sent to your branch or you may be able to order it yourself through the computer catalog.  Another benefit of the computer catalog is renewal via the internet or telephone, saving a half hour trip back to the library.

Once your list is made, you can work off it for some time.  Choose several books to check out; then the rest of your library time should be devoted to reference books, those wonderfully thick specialized encyclopedias that weigh thirty-two pounds each.  Work out of a dedicated notebook, marking page numbers if you prefer reading in order.  If your method is to search out concepts, use the index and map the appropriate pages in the notebook or lead index card.

Choose your tools carefully.  Index cards make great bookmarks because they double as notepaper.  Notebooks are available in a variety of sizes and styles to fit in easy to access places.  Pens with retractable points save you the trouble of searching for lost caps and cleaning up ink spots.

Can You Find Time For Your Research?

Create your own research opportunities by studying your day and week. Identify waiting or wasted time that can be dedicated to reading a page or a single paragraph.  Even reading a few sentences increases your knowledge.  Balance your sources, understand your responsibilities, and you'll find the time.