How I Wrote My First Published Article – Part 1: Research

Firstly I’d better point out again that this is not necessarily a system that will work for everyone and that I am still an amateur when it comes to writing (and many other things).  Different subject matters and target audiences will require different methods.  If I am successful at getting anything else published then you can be sure that I will share my secrets here unless forbidden to by an ancient order of monks.

I approached writing an article in a different way to writing a piece of fiction.  The initial process was the same in that I had an idea for what I wanted to write and sat on it for a couple of days before doing anything with it.  I always find it a good idea to let an idea stew for a while, especially with fiction, so that when I come to actually writing it down, I’m usually bursting with ideas.

I jotted down a few things I knew I wanted to cover and then I began the research.  For me this is one of the best parts and I think that comes from when I was at university studying for a Neuroscience degree.  I was the only person who enjoyed writing essays.  In retrospect it was probably my desire to be a writer that made me relish the process but there is something comforting in analysing information, extracting what you need and forming it into a finished piece of writing.

This article was more of an opinion piece however, not a scientific paper, which made it even better to write because it meant that I could express myself.  I did all of my research online.  Obviously the internet is not the only tool available but for the purposes of my article (and for convenience – I live about two and a half hours away from the nearest city) it was perfect.  I ended up finding a wide range of sources, from scientific research papers to user comments on   gaming websites.

It’s important, I find, when researching for anything, not to be too snobbish about potential sources.  Even if you stumble across something that’s badly written and lays out terrible arguments, it could be just what you need to give your own beautifully written piece sway.

My research began with a search of my chosen topic.  Morality in games is something that is coming up more and more frequently and there are even scholarly papers on studies that have been done.

I began by looking through the sites and articles that had been thrown up by my search and bookmarking the relevant ones.  I ended up with a list of about ten possible sources.  I didn’t use all of these.  Some of them, on further inspection, weren’t really what I was looking for, or they didn’t provide me with any new information.  Sometimes that information was better articulated in other places.  In the end I had about six that I cited as sources on the finished article.

Then it was simply a case of going through everything and making a note of anything that I found interesting or useful.  I had my checklist beside me of the points I wanted to cover.  This was to ensure I wouldn’t go off on a tangent and start writing about things that weren’t relevant.  Having a specific goal when you’re writing anything helps keep you focused and on track.

Of course I noted down any points that I found particularly interesting even if they weren’t directly related to my subject but I ended up not using most of these.  At the end I had scribbled notes that could be used to reinforce and illustrate my idea.

I will post Part Two in a couple of days where I will discuss how I went about putting all this information together.