Finding the pieces – working out what you need to know

Photo: alforque/flickr, some rights reserved.

Use class time to continue planning and researching your stories.

First read your theme statement to someone. Ask them if they understand clearly what you’re talking about. You now have a kind of hypothesis, or an idea which you’d like to present to your reader. For the reader to understand and believe it, you’ll need to provide evidence. You can imagine it’s a scientific theory that you need good, solid facts to prove. Try asking yourself these questions:

  • What are you hoping for in the finished story?
  • What kinds of information will you need to get there?
  • Where do you have to go?
  • Whom do you have to call?
  • What interviews do you need to schedule?

Go back to last week and read over the raw materials with which writers work. You can use them as a guide when collecting information for your own story. Experienced journalists often start with an expert who can provide a really good overview of a subject, and offer guidance in the next steps of the research process. An expert can suggest background reading and point you towards worthwhile sources of information. Use class time today to find an authority (or more if your story requires them) who can help you with your information gathering. Make a note of contact details, and call or email now with a request for information.

Continue building your story research file. By our next class you should have made contact with your “experts” and have a clear idea of the places you’ll need to go to find more information. Bring to class:

  • Your research file
  • Notes taken from your interview or informal chat with your chosen expert(s)
  • Any information and essential facts you’ve found so far
  • The names of other people you’ll interview, for either further information, or to quote in your story
  • A skeleton outline of your story. This outline will probably change, so don’t be precious about it – just get the stuff you’ve found down on paper. The outline will help you determine whether or not there are gaping holes in the evidence you’re using to support your story idea.

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