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6 Essential Research Tips To Make You A Smarter Writer

6 Essential Research Tips To Make You A Smarter Writer
Research Tips


Do you feel intimidated by the need to make research in your writing projects?

Well, you’re not alone. Many writers feel the same way. But you see, shying away from making research isn’t the way out for you. Why?

Because it’s inevitable if you must write well. A good writer is a good questioner … a curious cat. You must think outside the box to generate original ideas and be inquisitive to gather, sift and demonstrate your understanding of relevant facts.

Rather than freak out at making research or worn out your brain working too hard, there’re some simple tips you can start applying right now to get better results from lesser works. That way, you’ll become a smarter researcher – and then a smarter writer.

#1: Use the library catalogue

This sounds so obvious but few researchers actually use it. Rather than going from shelf to shelf browsing which material is relevant, use the alphabetical listing of subjects, book titles or authors’ names provided in the catalogue.

When you’re new in a city, would you go from street to street looking for a hotel or just check an online directory? You get the point?

#2: ‘Steal’ references from books

When you find a material that’s relevant to your topic, you can be sure many of the references in it will also be relevant. So go after them in your library or online.

In addition, if a relevant book you find cites material A and discusses a point from material B, you can as well reference materials A and B even though you’ve never sighted them. That way, you’ll have 3 references instead of one.

#3: Never cite Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a collaborative, user-developed encyclopedia. Whether you’re an expert, a mediocre or even a propagandist, you’re welcome to contribute contents to it. So it’s not an authoritative source you may cite in your essay.

Interestingly, a US appeals court ruled in 2008 that Wikipedia isn’t authoritative.

#4: Include “pdf” in your search terms

Whatever topic you’re writing on, there will be many books and journal articles in portable document format (PDF) that are more detailed, more carefully reasoned and peer reviewed than just hundreds of online articles. But unless you actually include “pdf” in your search terms, many of them won’t come up in the search result.

So instead of searching “education policy Nigeria,” try “education policy Nigeria pdf.”

#5: Use Google Scholar and Project Gutenberg

Both are free online resources you can use to search ebooks and articles. Most times, they’ll get you very relevant materials you can download and use without paying a dime.

#:6 Use Wikipedia smartly

No! I’m not confused. I know what you’re thinking. I just advised against citing Wikipedia, and here I am, recommending you use it. Any sense in that? Yes!

When you open a relevant Wikipedia page, scroll down the page and click through to some of the references used. Many of them might be relevant and authoritative.

P.S.: If you need real, practical, step-by-step guide to writing shining essays, grab my new book, “Vertical Writing,” which inspired this piece. It launches on Monday, 7th October, 2013.

Question: Do you know more smart research tips aside these ones? Please share them with us in the comment.

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-- Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji | Fulbright scholar | Senior Lecturer, Unilorin | newspaper columnist

About Muhammed Abdullahi Tosin

Writer. Difference Maker. Entrepreneur. Author, Your Right To Write & Vertical Writing. Winner, 11 Writing Prizes.


  1. Hey Coach, congrats on the release of your new book. Great tips on writing you have shared with us. Keep it up.

  2. RIDWAN ISSA says:


  3. Bode Oyetoro says:

    How insightful are the tips you freely shared.

  4. please can i get vertical writing in hard copy?

  5. Ntayi Bandawa says:

    Wow, this tips are really enlightening, and I commend you for that. I would also want to know whether it is every essay that requires me to give references, as some essays are required to be the unaided work of the writer? Thank you

    • Thanks Ntayi. Good to know you found the tips helpful. 🙂

      You do not need to provide references in all essays. There are many factors you must consider to determine whether you should provide them or not. I treated this well in my book, Vertical Writing. If you’ve not done so, get yourself a copy.

  6. how do I get a. copy of vertical writing

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