They say the life of a writer is lonely. That’s true in some ways, but the advent of the Internet has connected us in ways we could never have imagined. It has also made research easier than ever. However, easier is not always better.
We’ve all heard warnings about verifying the accuracy of our sources. Certain websites have more credibility than others. Just because something is on the Internet doesn’t make it true. This tongue-in-cheek quote, attributed to Abraham Lincoln from 1864, makes my point:
“The problem with internet quotes is that you can’t always depend on their accuracy.”
Still, there’s been a disturbing trend regarding research among authors – even multi-published authors. We’ve been blessed by our membership in various associations and networks. We have access to social media sites that are a treasure trove of information. We can scroll through Pinterest boards and loops sponsored by writer’s groups that remind us of alphabet soup: CAN, ACFW, SCBWI, TWV, and others.
In our haste to obtain information, we can fall prey to research by consensus. If enough people agree on Facebook, it must be right. If a photo was posted on a Pinterest board, it must be accurate. (Ever heard of Photoshop?) If we post our requests on a writer’s Loop, we can trust the answers because, after all, they’re Christians.
But conventional wisdom is not always correct. The majority is not always right – even if that majority is comprised of members of Christian writer’s organizations. Sincerity does not guarantee accuracy.
If a friend is a credentialed expert, then great. But just because someone on a network loop has a brother-in-law who once interned in the industry you’re writing about doesn’t make that person the best choice for a source. Let’s not fall into the trap of following the path of least resistance simply because it’s convenient. We need to do our homework. There’s no substitute for proper research.
The best way to market our books is to begin by writing excellent books. One wrong fact can jar the reader out of your story or cast doubt on your expertise to write on a particular non-fiction topic.
While there’s nothing wrong with a little help from our friends, sometimes the best research source isn’t a personal friend or a fellow writer. Sometimes the best research source is an accredited association such as the AMA for medical questions or a Bar Association for legal questions…or the friendly reference librarian at your local public library.
Friends and experts – there’s a place for both.
What is your “go-to” source when you need answers to research questions?
Ava Pennington is a writer, Bible teacher, and speaker. Her newest book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God: A Devotional, is endorsed by Precepts founder Kay Arthur. Additionally, Ava is co-author of Faith Basics for Kids. The first two books in the series are Do You Love Me More? and Will I See You Today? She has also written numerous articles for magazines such as Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, Today’s Christian Woman, Power for Living, and Called.
In addition to her writing, Ava also teaches a weekly, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) class. She is a passionate speaker and teacher, and delights in challenging audiences with the truth of God’s word in relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit her at www.AvaWrites.com.