Don’t Make These Mistakes in Doing Research

Today’s my birthday, so I decided to take the day off and have my friend Donna Wittlif guest post. I first met Donna through an online group I belong to and then had the opportunity to edit one of her books—fascinating sci-fi.

She is a retired special education and English teacher who loves writing. Her World Eternal series are science fiction/religious stories for young adults and adults.

Mistakes in Doing Research

When writers are working on a book, taking the time to stop and do research is difficult. Many of us equate research with the onerous tasks connected with doing high school and college research papers. Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, here are a few tips on what not to do when you are doing research.

Not doing research.

You think you already know, so you don’t do necessary research. You don’t question. You fail to ask yourself if what you wrote is really true. In the first draft of the second book of my series, I had the characters standing on their heads in a turned-over spacecraft, and the universe was divided into quadrants. One of my beta readers said, “There’s no right side up in space. And where did quadrants come from, Star Trek?” I’m glad she called those errors to my attention, as such mistakes can damage a writer’s credibility.

Not going when you can and should.

Nothing can take the place of being there, seeing for yourself, taking pictures, and listening to local people talk. I spent a day at CU-Boulder since it was the setting for much of my first book. Later, I needed more information, and when I looked at their website, I found mistakes there that might have made a difference in the validity of my story. It’s always better to go, see for yourself, and take photos to refresh your memory.

Using only one website or source.

Wikipedia is a place to start, but have you ever noticed the number of [citation needed] places in their articles? Their website is put together and updated by people who think they know, and people make mistakes. Even if you’re using only internet sources for your research, check out several.

Not using your public library.

library signUsing a library is free. Go in and browse books on your topic. Read another author’s opinions. Seeing photographs in books is not quite as good as being there, but it helps. If you can’t find what you need, ask for help. Don’t forget that libraries have much more than books, magazines, and newspapers. The librarian will know about resources that you may not have heard of.

Being too shy or afraid to ask for interviews.

Most people love to talk about what they do and tell about their experiences. Talking to experts in their field is a great way to pick up trade jargon and get a feeling for their work. Perhaps the information you gain will open new plot possibilities or suggest an idea for an interesting twist.

For us writers who have an undying sense of curiosity, doing research should be fun. Make it worthwhile by avoiding the above pitfalls.


Author Donna WittlifDonna’s stories showcase her interests in space exploration, UFOs, and God as Creator and Sustainer of the universe. She and her husband live in Colorado and enjoy their grandchildren, gardening, and writing devotionals.

Read about her recent release World Eternal: Perils at You can also read the first chapters of books 1 & 2.

World Eternal: Perils book cover

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  1. Such great advice and yes, I am one of the shy ones 😀 Thank you for the encouragement to step out and ask. Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!

    • Glad this was helpful. I’m one of the shy ones too. I think it’s hard for most people. You might think first about how you can help out the person you want to interview. Spend time on his/her website or podcast. Know something about him/her before you contact them so you can approach them with something personal rather than a total cold call.

  2. Very informative! Thanks Donna!

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