3 Fun and Creative Ways To Do Research

Setting the scene

I consider myself a fact finder. I love looking up information about a variety of topics—whether it’s the best brand of butter to buy or the names of great restaurants in a city I’m traveling to. The research that went into writing BECAUSE OF KHALID was more than just finding a few fun facts. I have half a closet worth of notes and folders from research for my book. There is so much to know about African elephants! Being respectful and accurate of the Maasai culture (KHALID is the secondary character) was of the utmost importance, and I was grateful to have an inside contact who also had an email address.

I’m currently writing new stories that have equally amazing and realistic settings like Svalbard, an archipelago north of the Arctic Circle, California’s coastline, and Costa Rica. I continue to rely on my three trusty research methods:


Visit the place you want to write about. Take note of the sights, sounds, smells, weather, seasons.

I traveled to the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa for BECAUSE OF KHALID. I took 200+ photos plus some video to help me remember how I felt while in the setting.

I also traveled to Svalbard to experience sunlight at 2 am and see, smell, taste, and hear (yes, hear) the sea ice.

If the story you’re writing about takes place in a park, for example, be sure to go there and sit in it. Put your phone away for a little bit and just experience being in the setting. Take your shoes off and feel the grass. Is it prickly or soft on your skin? Is the area sunny or shady? If it’s winter, does your setting have snow? What does the breeze or harsh wind feel like on your face?

What kind of flora and fauna (plants and animals) live in your setting?

Take lots of photos and video before you leave. Go back and revisit in a different season.

  • READ

Read everything you can about your setting.

Find articles on the Internet.

Read Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult Fiction and Non-fiction for all age groups. How do other authors describe the setting that you plan to write about in your story?

Watch movies that have a similar setting as the one you’re writing about.

  • DO

Get involved with organizations that revolve around your setting.

During the research for BECAUSE OF KHALID, I learned about The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust based in Kenya, Africa that rehabilitates orphaned elephants. I now foster, Galla, a 5 year old elephant and get monthly updates about him. More info here: sheldrickwildlifetrust.org

I also am involved with savetheelephants.org, worldwildlife.org, elephantvoices.org.

Back to the park, get involved with your local park district. Volunteer to do a park clean up in the spring. Join a community garden.

Find organizations that involve your setting.

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The reason I call myself a fact finder is that I’m always forgetting the information that I have just looked up. However, when I get involved and become part of the experience, the memory lasts a lifetime.