Blogging: 5 steps to using research well

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Belle Beth Cooper writes about social media, startups, lifehacking, and science on the Buffer blog. She recently wrote an outstanding post titled: “How We Research: A Look Inside the Buffer Blog Process.” Here’s part of the opening.

“I rely heavily on scientific research to back up my points, so there’s a lot of research to be done. Unfortunately there’s no secret sauce or magic bullet when it comes to this process. It’s mostly just a matter of time and practice. I do have a few tips to share about where and how I find the sources for my research, though, so hopefully you’ll find these useful.”

If you blog and you care about doing good research, this post is a must-read. You’ll find lots of good advice and handy tips. And, if you’re like my clients, you’ll wind up developing a research and blog post writing system that includes the following five steps.

Gathering stuff

Sometimes you know what you want to write about. Then you set out to research that topic. But, most of the time great blog posts don’t start with a clear research target.

That’s why you need to a lot of scanning. Develop the discipline of scanning relevant sources for interesting tidbits of information or opinion. You’ll find studies, stories, quotes and opinion pieces that make you say, “Hmmmm … that’s interesting.”

Saving stuff

Most of the time, you won’t have a clear idea of what to do with that interesting tidbit. You have to save it until the time is right. When in doubt, save it. You can always delete it later.

Evernote is my tool of choice for saving stuff. There’s no perfect saving tool. Use one that works for you. In addition to making saving easy, your tool should make it easy to review what you’ve saved.

Reviewing stuff

Saving interesting stuff is not enough. You need to review your collection from time to time. Some things that were fascinating once won’t seem so anymore. Delete them or archive them, at your pleasure. I usually delete the no-longer-interesting items since the web makes it so easy to find information again.

When you review regularly, things you’ve saved will spark ideas. You’ll spot connections with other things you’ve saved or thought of.

Retrieving more of stuff

When you have an idea, you can go find more stuff about it. This is what most people mean by “research,” learning what you can about a specific topic.

Not all ideas will turn into blog posts. That’s OK.

Processing stuff

You need a system for processing your blog post ideas. Develop a standard way that you develop ideas and turn some of them into blog posts.

Discipline is the key

You may think that tools or slick tricks are the keys to creating great blog posts from the stuff of research. They’re not. You need discipline.

You need discipline to scan a wide variety of sources to find the things that make you say, “Hmmmm … that’s interesting. You need discipline to save your ideas, review what you’ve saved, and turn your research into blog posts. As Belle Beth Cooper says, “there’s no secret sauce or magic bullet.”

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