Experience Research = Credible Writing
By Charles Hopkins
Published 09/20/2007 | Publishing
Credible writing starts with sound research. Then use your own
experience to develop your material and you will write more
1. Define your reasons for writing
Who is your targeted reader? Where - and why - is he likely to meet
problems? How much does he already know? What special knowledge do you
have that can help him? What else do you need to find out? You cannot
help your reader if you do not gain his respect.
2. Plan your methods of research
Revisit some of your favorite manuals or textbooks to refresh the
basics. Read through recently published articles on your subject. You
want your own article to be current.
When searching the web for background material, include the word
"problems" along with the name or description of the object of your
piece (e.g. "XYZ Ion Regenerator problems"). That will get you into
company-sponsored user forums where you can discuss what problems real
people are concerned with today.
Be prepared to sift through a volume of conflicting advice; here is
where experience is absolutely necessary. Never try to wing it. If you
have never actually used the XYZ Ion Regenerator, it would be too easy
to misunderstand the subtleties, obscurities and downright
misinformation common to open technical forums. That would surely
destroy your credibility.
3. Write from personal experience
Include problems that you have faced, and solutions that you have
found; that establish your credibility at once. Real knowledge gained
from experience zings with authority. Respect the semantic link between
author and authority.
As an example, anyone could slap together a fair article on dog
training. With 40 million web sites about this one subject, all you
would have to do is skim through a few of them and cherry pick some
thoughts. But if you are unable to structure your article around real
anecdotes concerning dogs you have trained, your words will ring
4. Work experience as valid research
"Write what you know." Old advice that is equally valid for writers
of all genres. Base your writing on what you actually know and back it
up with fresh research.
For instance, have you ever worked as a dishwasher? Good, then you
should realize the difference between washing dishes in a restaurant
and doing so in a cafeteria.
In a cafeteria, the panic is always over flatware when people are
pressing into line for a quick lunch and can't find any clean forks.
(For some reason, the stainless steel seems to get dumped into the
garbage along with the leftovers. Garbage cans in cafeterias now have
magnets to prevent this.)
In a restaurant, on the other hand, the endless mountains of pots
and pans from preparing many individual meals simultaneously are what
kill dishwashers. (Not all cooks are quick to get their used cookware
back to the scullery, causing recurring crises as the dishwasher
struggles with waves of encrusted pots.)
Once you have this authentic background, can you find something
useful there? Does it suggest an article about laborsaving practices,
or a short story about personality clashes behind those kitchen doors?
As a babysitter, you might develop a great article about how to put children at ease before their parents leave.
Or, while reading aloud to the kids, you notice which stories they
demand again and again. There is your research! Now make up some
stories of your own. Test them on your charges; which ones do they keep
asking for? You are now fine-tuning your first children's book.
Write from the strength of personal experience fortified by solid
research. Sound research is its own reward; it leads you to what you
need to write. Experience suggests how to structure your writing for