Non-fiction book compared with an iceberg

3. Research
Finding all the facts

Why I compare a non-fiction book with an iceberg ...

A non-fiction book is full of facts which the author has got to find from somewhere. The author cannot guess or make facts up – if I did that, my non-fiction books would be full of mistakes. I'd be in trouble, and you would not learn anything, would you?

Finding out the facts, searching for information, gathering the evidence is called research. I spend a lot of time researching my books.

Here are some of the places I go to and methods I use to do my research:

  • Borrow books from my town library – always a good place to do research, and if I'm in a hurry or don't know what books to look for, I'll have a chat with the friendly librarians who are there to help me.
  • Use an Internet search engine to find websites (Google, bing, Yahoo!, Ask, and AOL are the top five search engines, in that order).
  • Visit museums, historic places and art galleries.
  • Interview someone who knows about the subject.

But, finding the facts is only the start of my research.

I was once asked this: "How do you know your facts are true?" That's a really tough question. The simple answer is that I check and double-check the facts. I don't want to make any mistakes, and I can never do enough checking.

So why is a non-fiction book like an iceberg?

To me, a finished book is like the tip of an iceberg – it's the only bit you can actually see.

But, like an iceberg, there's a huge chunk of a non-fiction book that you cannot see. For an iceberg it's the great bulk of ice that's under the sea, and for a non-fiction book it's all the time I spend looking for information – doing the research.

Research takes a lot of time, and it's a key skill in writing a non-fiction book.

Now can I write the book? No! I've got to something else first. You probably have to do this at school except, that is, if you're like Richard, who thought he could skip this vital next step. You'll read about Richard on page 4.

Iceberg image © Norbert Buchholz |