Research Your Way To Publication Through
Before writers write, they do
research. Thereís just no way around it.
Fortunately, most writers are
curious types who enjoy scouring through books or sifting through
databases to find the answers theyíre seeking. I know more than one
writer, myself included, who started on the path to writing, in part
because they like doing research almost as much as they love the
Even in this age of electronic
information, libraries are still a writerís best friend when it
comes to research. Even so, the research process can be daunting for
many, particularly if youíre a beginner. Where do you find
information on a specific topic? Where can you find experts to
Where do you begin?
While most libraries have
several different departments, all research is done through the
Reference Department. Visit your local library, and become familiar
with everything they have to offer by talking with the Reference
Librarian. Even if your library is a small one, donít overlook this
step, because you feel uncomfortable about your lack of knowledge,
or assume you can learn the inside workings on your own. Maybe you
can, but not everything is readily visible to the visitor and what
you see may not be what you think. The librarian is there to help
you, and she is trained to assist and inform you.
Most libraries today are part
of bigger systems that cooperate with one another by lending a
variety of materials such as books, books-on-tape, CDs, videos,
magazines and microfilm. If your library doesnít own what youíre
looking for, chances are they can get it for you through someone
else in relatively short periods of time, ranging from a few hours
for faxed information to a week or two for most everything
Approach the reference
librarian, (usually the smiling person behind the desk) and explain
the reason for your visit. You can ask general questions if you are
just curious about the libraryís collection, ("Iím looking for books
about writing") but itís almost always better to be as specific as
Try using the following
"Iím a freelance
writer who needs information on how to write childrenís picture
books. Iíll need to know how to format my manuscript and need a
list of publishers."
If the librarian asks questions
of her own, resist the urge to get annoyed or assume that he or she
doesnít understand what you need. Most likely, they are just trying
to determine the best source to help you find what you
need. Most information will be in several sources, not one, and
may be located in several areas of the library, in forms such
as books, magazines or subscription databases.
Realize too, that while
librarians are information experts, they are not the reincarnation
of every scientist, athlete, or genius who ever lived. They may not
be able to tell you how to write the perfect query letter, for
instance, but they should be able steer you towards the information
or agencies that can.
Even the smallest libraries
will have a section about writing.
Hopefully, you can also find some of the "bibles" of the writing
industry, such as Writerís Market and Literary Market
Place (directories for the publishing and book industries),
Books In Print (which tells you just that) and The
Readerís Guide to Periodical Literature (a subject index on countless topics that have been
published in magazines).
These are just the beginning,
and your librarian can also inform you about other sources all
writers need from time to time, such as books of quotations;
encyclopedias of professional associations; and a variety of
dictionaries, thesauruses, or books on grammar and word
To avoid frustration and
disappointment, or worse, missed deadlines, donít wait until the
last minute to do your research or request materials. Research, by
its very nature, takes time and sustained effort. Even if the
library owns what you want, it might be checked out to someone else
or there could be restrictions involved with lending certain
materials. For example, most materials marked "Reference" on the
label or in the card catalog must be used at the library and cannot
be checked out for use at home.
In all likelihood, you will need to become a patron (a
card-carrying member), in order to take advantage of all services,
so if you need something on Friday, donít wait until Wednesday or
Thursday to visit your library. Make several visits, and take the
time to get to know your library and librarian. Allow yourself as
much time as possible to determine what you need and whatís
available, and give yourself, the library staff, and your career, a
chance to shine.
© 2004 Cindy
Cindy is a Reference
Librarian and writer who lives in the Pocono Mountains of
Pennsylvania with her family and two cats, Snuffles and Cheyenne.
She has written news, feature, and op-ed articles for various
newspapers. Her poetry has been published in Poetic Voices, Haiku
Hut, and the Sourgrapes Newsletter. In addition to writing, she
enjoys photography, animals, being outdoors, and traveling.
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