Researching is crucial for creating a compelling nonfiction book and many fiction writers use extensive research as part of their planning process.
Simply put, observation is watching people or things. This is a crucial tool for all writers. Making detailed notes while you watch is key. These notes can be used as a source of inspiration when writing. This is especially appropriate for business people who have deep industry knowledge based on their observations and experiences over a number of years which can be a crucial part of their research for their book.
Observation is a key skill for fiction writers who might be inspired by people or events they have seen in the real world.
Surveys are a really useful tool for nonfiction writer as they can provide both qualitative and quantitative data about the topic you are researching. Quantitative data is information that can be expressed through numbers so you might refer to your survey to show what percentage of participants agreed with a statement. Qualitative data is information that is expressed through words which can be quoted in your book.
Web apps such as Survey Monkey and Google forms have made surveys a lot easier to create and so writers no longer need an extensive research budget to carry out surveys. Remember that the more people you survey the more representative the survey will be.
Interviews allow writers to get a lot of qualitative data about their subjects. Contacting people you want to interview directly or talking to their agents can sometimes lead to them offering you an interview.
The key to a good interview is preparation – planning out the questions you will ask in advance will make the interview more useful and crucially will save the time of the person who has agreed to be interviewed.
A focus group is a small group of people who represent a larger group of society. For example if you wanted to know what female entrepreneurs think about an issue you might organise a focus group where 10-15 female entrepreneurs are invited to share their opinions.
Conventionally, the participants of focus groups are paid for their time. This can make a focus group more difficult to organise than other research methods but they can be useful to work out how people feel about an issue.
Experiments are not just for science books – many business writers trial strategies with real businesses and comment on the results in their writing.
Experiments can make the research process complicated and lengthy but they also have the potential to make groundbreaking discoveries which will turn your book into a must-read bestseller.
Secondary Data Analysis / Archival Study
Consulting secondary data means reading through what other thinkers have said about a topic. Reading books and watching documentaries can help you to get an overview of a topic very quickly.
Your local library is perhaps the best place to start. Not only do libraries have access to an immense catalogue of books but they often have access to local newspapers and archives. They may also be linked with other specialist, local, or national archives.