Attention Writers! 2 Research Hacks You Can’t Live Without!

P1070730 turban finished

As you can imagine, and as you know yourself, research can soon turn into mountains of documents, files, and e-mails. Working two years to research and write my newest book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, nearly produced enough research piling up to compete with Mount Everest! (Some research is more fun than others as you can see by this photo where I took a class to learn how to make a turban–Jane Austen style!)

How did I manage all this research so I didn’t get caught under an avalanche of information? Among other things, I discovered these two simple things that helped me organize my research-related e-mails.

Why e-mails, of all things, you may ask? Here’s a true story to remember as you’re conducting your own research.


On a different writing project, I was in the running with several other authors to see who would be picked to help write a multiple book series. Among other tasks the publisher assigned us, we were asked to answer this question:

Were there oak trees in ancient Ireland in the days of St. Patrick?

How did I solve that question? For starters, it was tricky. Online research (my first go-to resource) was conflicting. Some said yes, some said no. After about 20 minutes of looking around on the internet and getting different answers in different places, I simply googled tree experts in Ireland, found a name of a guy who specialized in the history of trees in Ireland, and e-mailed him the question. In about another 20 minutes, I had my answer, (Yes! There were oak trees in ancient Ireland) which I sent off to the publisher, along with the expert’s contact info.

Needless to say, I got the job to help write the book series. Among other reasons, the publisher shared that the other writers only came back with conflicting online research and said I was the only one who contacted an expert.

I contact experts all the time. Historical sites. Museums. Specialists in the topic I’m writing about. People to vet my manuscripts (make sure everything I state is correct and accurate). I even ended up e-mailing the gal who taught the turban class to answer a question I had. And I keep all these e-mails in one handy dandy place.

So what are my two hacks that will help you organize your research e-mails?

Create a separate e-mail account that you only use for this purpose. I use a free account at google mail. It may sound like too much work, but it only takes ten minutes of your time. Yet it saves you oodles of time as you’re working on your project because all your research e-mails are in one place and not drowning in the middle of all your junk and personal e-mails. I gave mine a cool name too: NSandersResearch at gmail dot com. (This makes me sound professional, too, to the experts I contact.)

Add a confidentiality notice in the signature that is automatically tacked to the bottom of each of your e-mails in your separate account you use for research. If you work with editors, chances are you see that most their e-mails contain this confidentiality notice in some form. When you’re working on a project, you don’t want to give away too many details as you keep it under wraps so another writer won’t steal your ideas. Adding this confidentiality notice to your e-mails gives you a little bit of protection.

Here’s the notice I add to the bottom of each research e-mail, underneath my contact information. Feel free to copy it if you like:

CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This e-mail is intended only for the use of the individual to whom it is addressed. It may contain confidential information. Please do not share this information with anyone.

If you don’t know how to set up a signature to appear automatically in your e-mails, just dig around in your preferences or settings until you find the term “signature” and type something in there and then send an e-mail to yourself to test how it looks.

Just a word of precautionary tale, however…te he he…watch that auto-correct in your e-mail posts! When I started e-mailing experts about my Jane Austen questions, I started my e-mails with “Hello so-and-so.” To my horror after several e-mails went out, I discovered my auto-correct dropped the “o” from the end of my Hello! Yikes! Now I start each e-mail with “Hi” or “Dear.” And even more recently in correspondence about my Jane Austen book, I ended my e-mail with “Thanks so much.” What did auto-correct do (which I didn’t discover until the person e-mailed me back and I saw the email of mine that they received)? It changed “Thanks so much” to “Thanks smooch.” Sigh. Lol. You just gotta laugh at technology.

But that’s it for the 2 hacks you simply can’t live without if you’re serious about writing and about research! Not too hard, but really helps for any writing project, fiction or nonfiction. And now that my book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS, is finally out, I’m going to open up that e-mail and contact all the experts I worked with to let them know the book is out and thank them once again for their help. It will be easy because all those e-mails are in one handy spot.

And some fun news is that I’ll be embarking on a blog tour starting this month to help get the word out about my new book. But as I’m getting those posts ready, I thought it would be fun to share with you some news from several of my online writing friends. Stay tuned for some exciting author interviews coming up here on my blog!

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