What do you do when you’re asked to write on a topic outside your usual areas?
You research it, of course. But where do you start?
First, ask the client for guidance. It’s OK to say that you aren’t familiar with the topic requested. Ask if there are people you can speak to for 10 or 15 minutes, or if they can recommend a go-to guide.
And if all else fails, there’s Wikipedia.
Personally, I don’t rely on it as a direct source but I do often find that Wiki authors can at least give me a quick and basic explanation. I also like that Wiki will say where content is thin and more information is needed.
Take a look at the footnotes used in the Wikipedia article and check them out, too.
Here’s my list of go-to resources for deeper dives into certain topics:
- Forrester Research – business and technology
- Frost & Sullivan – markets and technology
- Gartner Research – business, legal, and IT
- Pew Research – current affairs
- Rand Corporation – the grandaddy of research, Rand covers just about all domestic topics and has a strong international arm as well
As you sharpen your research skills, you’ll find that many sources you come across will cite studies from one of these companies. These sites have lots of reports or summaries available at no cost and are well-respected in a number of fields.
Survey companies also conduct solid research. Although you hear about them most often in a political sense, they do a lot more than measure public mood. You might be surprised to come across research based on polling data from these firms: