If structure is the spice of any fiction or non-fiction book, research is the main dough. It won't be an exaggeration to say that research is the soul of any well-written fiction/non-fiction. It is not that thin, but indeed a very thick line of difference to distinguish a better writer from an average one. It not just makes a writer realise that just having an idea is not enough but also emphasizes that depth is the only way to scale up the breadth of quality in writing. While a well-researched write up/ fiction/ non-fiction doesn't need more structure check, on the other hand, any write up or book lacking research can fall flat in terms of quality writing.
We would think that research applies to non-fiction writers because that is the bread and butter of their work as their content is based on fact. But it's not so. Novelists, whose work is based on imagination, are also not exempted from doing research. Facts and details taken straight from reality represent an excellent basis for building plausible and believable plots and fictional characters.
Having said that, there is no hard-and-fast rule on 'How to do Research for a Novel'. However, there definitely are several practical and useful ways to do the same.
Making a research plan - Unless we know what to look for, how will we know where or how to look for it! Once you have outlined your story, find the places where you think you need more information. Next to each one, brainstorm ways you might fulfill each of those needs. You don’t have to get too specific here. The point is to highlight where you need extra information and give yourself leads about where you might find it. It could be talking to an expert in the field or a co-writer, re-reading books where you had found a similar reference or it could be a website that'll provide you with the requisite information.
2. Ask the Internet - …but don't believe every single thing it tells you! Yes, the internet is one of the most powerful tools for research and the best place to start but it is also notorious for being one of the greatest sources of misinformation. To make your research effective, use a variety of search terms and keep refining your research. In short, don't stop on the first few results that pop up on the screen. Go to verified websites and information sources only.
3. Read, read and read - This step includes reading books, newspapers, articles etc that will help you dive deeper into your topic. And this step couldn't be emphasized more! These are reliable because they are often fact-checked, peer-reviewed, or vetted. You know you can trust them.
4. Connect with relevant Social Media groups - There are over 600 million Facebook groups and innumerable WhatsApp groups, and it is likely at least a handful will specifically relate to the subject you are planning to write about. Active Facebook groups can give you quantity, as well as quality targetted information about topics of your area of interest.
5. Watch relevant videos or listen to podcasts - Movies, documentaries and videos on YouTube and even podcasts can all be great sources of information for writers. Whether you are researching a place, a time period, a type of person or a particular culture, you are sure to find some things in this area that will help you understand your topic. Sometimes, audio-visual sources are even more helpful than written ones, as they can allow you to see and/or hear and virtually experience things you might not otherwise have access to.
Researching may seem to be an arduous task and in many ways more than one, it is. But it is the stepping stone for writing a believable novel that will connect with the reader and keep them engaged. So are you including research as the main ingredient for your next book?