Blogging and writing, Mental health

How to Write Researched Posts

Writing researched blog posts - image of an ornate library

If you’ve been reading my blog for more than a few days, you may have noticed I’m a big fan of doing researched posts.  They can actually be really easy to write, so I thought I would share some tips that might help if you want to try doing that style of post.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia can be a great place to start.  It’s got a massive collection of articles, and you can find a decent overview of almost any subject  That’s the upside; the downside is that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, which means that there can be some wrong information.  But there’s also an army of volunteer Wikipedia editors keeping an eye on things.  There are a few factors to consider when evaluating the reliability of a particular Wikipedia page.

Are there any editorial flags at the top of the page pointing out problems with the article?  If the flag is still there, chances are the issue hasn’t been addressed, so take that into account.

Is the writing style more like an encyclopedia or an editorial?  If it sounds like an editorial, that suggests the reliability is questionable, and most likely the page hasn’t gotten any attention from editors.  All articles on Wikipedia are supposed to be written using a neutral tone (if you’re GenX or older, think World Book encyclopedia); if there are biased statements, that bias should come from the source being cited rather than the article itself.

Is the information referenced?  You’ll see this as numbers in superscript at the end of sentences, like this[3].   These will be hyperlinked to the reference list at the bottom, and if you hover the mouse over the number, a little box should pop up giving the reference information.  If it’s an academic journal that’s cited, that info is probably pretty reliable.  It the information comes from Joe Schmoe’s Flat Earth Blog, you’ll probably want to steer clear.

There’s more on how to evaluate information on Wikipedia in this post on media literacy.

Finding Other References

The Wikipedia article on your topic may have given you ideas for other information you might want to find.  So, off you go to your favourite search engine.  It will probably give you a massive number of results.  What next?

Some kinds of websites are more likely than others to have reliable information.  Government sites, which you can spot by domain suffixes like .gov, .gov.uk, .gc.ca, and so on, are good places to get information.

University websites can also be really helpful.  In the U.S., these are easy to spot by the .edu domain suffix.  A lot of schools have some really useful non-academic content; for example, Harvard Health Publishing is great for looking up health conditions, and U.C. Berkeley’s Greater Good site has some really good info on things like gratitude and compassion.

Charitable organizations can be another good source.  They often have lots of informative material that’s written in clear, simple language.

Another thing to look out for is an author’s qualifications.  If someone is making supposedly factual statements (rather than expressing opinions) but doesn’t have any credentials in the subject area and they’re not citing any references, they may well be just pulling the article out of their ass.

Putting an Article Together

I don’t retain information well, so I make notes as I’m reading of the bits that stand out for me.  Those notes will also serve as the basic structure for the post.  By the time I’ve made my way through a few sources, the pieces of the post are pretty much already there, and I just have to connect them.

Feel free to use direct quotes from your references.  If you’re not using a direct quote, you need to paraphrase what that you’ve gotten from a reference source, as using someone’s words without quoting them properly would be considered plagiarism.  When doing a direct quote, just make sure it’s clear what the source of a quote is and link to it, and you’re good to go.  The WordPress blockquote feature is handy for longer quotes, and clearly sets apart the source’s words from your words.

If you’re starting off knowing nothing at all about your topic, a referenced post may take a while to write.  However, if you’ve got some basic knowledge, you may be able to do more of a skim read of your references, and you may be surprised how quickly you can bang out a post.

Benefits of Doing Researched Posts

There are a number of benefits to doing researched posts.  Including links to high quality references gives you the side benefit of a little search engine optimization (SEO) boost.  More importantly, you get to learn something new, and so do your readers.  This type of post can work well if you’re feeling a little low on creativity, because once you come up with your basic idea for the post, you’re mostly going to be writing about what other people have to say on the topic.

Do you ever include researched posts on your blog?  Why or why not?

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Visit the Mental Health Websites & Apps page for listings of lots of great mental health resources.

26 thoughts on “How to Write Researched Posts”

  1. Good post! Actually I’m beginning to dabble in research posts. I think even if you have a personal blog it is a good thing to have a research piece from time to time.

  2. Generally I do not write researched posts. I include a few tidbits of info for the Sunday Song post and my April Game posts, which are from Wikipedia usually. For the most part, though, I write about my experiences and how I feel about things. And in general, infoblogging isn’t what I want to read. Yours is an exception.

  3. We don’t do researched articles.
    It might be self-rejection.
    We have an academic background and probably want some distance from that.
    We do write about Nonviolent Communication, and that is all attributable to Marshall Rosenberg so far.
    As regards our own mental health disorders, first-person, experiential narratives are highly valued by us. We are trying to grow our own ability to feel, recognize, express, accept—and so are looking for people who model that for us

    The research article’s style matters to us. You are more colloquial and clear about what is opinion and what seems to be fact, which we value.

    We are not loving the privileged, wealthy, angry whites male perspective right now, whose tone seems to dominate academic and political discourse
    Fortunately, white male Rosenberg does not appear to flex his power in a privileged way. And he is dead now.
    In short, we love how you write.

    We are worried that privileged voices (ie powerful white men) drown out other valuable discourse. Thank you for empowering people to express themselves

    1. I really appreciate the blogging world as being a way for all people to share their experiences, regardless of privilege. On its own it’s probably not enough to shift the tone of popular discourse, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

  4. You’re so freakishly good at science! My mind isn’t oriented toward it, but I’ve been trying to make sure I don’t claim untrue things online (or things that aren’t validated all over the place). Like in a recent blog, I listed the symptoms of coronavirus (fever, dry cough, and breathing difficulty). I didn’t name a source, but that list was on every single website I visited, so it seemed good enough to me. (If I were into writing researched posts, I’d hold myself to a much higher standard.) I’ve also tried to say stuff like, “Don’t quote me on this, but I think…” in order to convey that I haven’t researched it or found a good enough reliable source, etc. Because it’s occurred to me that 1) I’m not good at factual knowledge, and 2) I think I AM good at it, because I can never tell when my brain is misconstruing basic stuff…? I’m totally not trying to get down on myself. I just don’t have a scientific mind! I think that’s fine ’cause there are many forms of intelligence out there!! Your blog post looks like a good reference, and I’ll try to remember its suggestions if I’m stating facts in my own future posts!!

  5. I enjoy reading well prepared, research posts, yours especially on mental health issues and few others. My blog style and content typically doesn’t lend itself well for disseminating researched material. One exception is when I write about supporting local food banks and helping to fight hunger. Great post, as always, Ashley.

  6. Have you ever thought of teaching a course on social media? It wouldn’t even have to be in person because so many courses are online now. I honestly think you’d be fab at it! Especially on mental health/medical related issues due to your personal experiences and educational background

    1. Thanks! I’m actually best in this type of format. I know it seems like it should translate well into teaching, but for whatever reason teaching hasn’t been a good fit when I’ve tried it.

  7. Aha! I do researched posts all the time. The downside is that is can take me a long time to put the post together how I want it to be. When quoting, I try to reference as good as possible. When I borrow an idea to expand on, I mention the source at the bottom. I don’t know if that’s enough in terms of copyright.
    For me it is more easy to write researched posts than to start writing from scratch, I’m too insecure still I guess. A research post gives me a better framework to start from. The downsite is that it can feel uncomfortable as when I research too much, I feel like a ‘transformer of knowledge’ and I miss my own component too much. So to balance that out I write a personal post from time to time (I just finished one 🙂 )
    I don’t know what my readers like to read but I also write for my writing pleasure so I guess we need to meet in the middle.

    1. In terms of copyright, I think as long as you’re including a source for direct quotes you’re ok. I’m not sure if referring to someone’s original ideas requires citation for copyright purposes, but if it’s information that’s also available elsewhere it wouldn’t be a copyright issue.

      I think you’d done a great job on your blog of balancing the personal and the informative.

  8. My researched posts don’t seem to do well and often take me a lot of effort to write, so I’m leaning away from them these days.

    I think I do better with “here’s a researched article by a source I respect or find interesting, and here’s some of my personal thoughts about what it’s saying.”

  9. I’m probably not the best at researched articles and try to stay away from them but for statistics obviously they’re needed – I try to use a couple or research articles so that people can refer to the articles for more detailed information, if they want to know more.

  10. I’m really interested in psychology and psychiatry and the media I read about and I want to share it and literally didn’t know where to start. I knew I should be writing research posts so now I am excited to do so!

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