2. Creative Writing: Finding what you need

(You can download this video from Media Hopper Create.)

How do you select resources to support your writing?

Wikipedia is a great starting point, but it cannot be your sole source of information. Credibility is very important you need to drill down, check your facts, make sure you have the dates right are all very important, especially in historical fiction.

University libraries are really important. Librarians have expertise and have spent time looking at the materials they have archived and are a great resource if you need help getting started in your search. When it comes to writing novels primary resources are a great source of information, so the National Library of Scotland or the British Newspaper Archives are particularly useful specialist resources.

By looking back at the Scotsman archive in the period in which Burke and Hare were operating Peter was able to read the accounts of Burkes trial and execution which gave a lot of colour and atmosphere to the opening parts of the novel.

How did you use the University’s material?

The staff at the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum were very helpful in letting Peter have a look at the artefacts in the museum, and the research that surrounded them. This was very helpful in promoting the book.  A large part of promoting a debut novel involves the author going out and talking about their work. So, this information was used in the promotion of the book at a number of different events. The university’s contribution of expertise gave Peter a good deal of confidence when it came to speaking publicly on the subjects around the novel. Speaking to other first time novelists Peter regrets not making more use of the librarians expertise while writing his novel.  

Activity: Search Challenge

Peter is writing a novel, which involves the Scottish distilling industry. He is particularly keen to know more about the industry and its growth in the 1850s and 1860s after blended whisky was invented. He is particularly keen to find out how Scottish whisky spread around the world to places like the United States and France.

  1. Start by writing a list of all the things you could search for that relate to the search challenge, and prioritise these in your journal. Think about building the general atmosphere as well as finding information around the science.
  2. Use Boolean searches to find information about the specific time frame in which you are looking.
  3. Try using truncated searches using the * symbol to extend your search.
  4. Watch this Demo for more info: Finding Open Research with Charlie (Stephanie) Farley at the University of Edinburgh

Use Wikipedia for an initial search to find out about this particular niche of interest. This will be a great starting point to being your search for primary resources on the Scotsman website. You will have to join the Scotsman to search its archives. http://archive.scotsman.com/

Then go to Google Scholar to start your search on the history and science of distilling in the 1850’s and 1860’s. Try finding a free and open resource that contains the information you need to build colour and atmosphere into a story. https://scholar.google.co.uk/

Next try the Edinburgh Research Explorer to look for information that is based specifically in Scotland. http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/en/

Record what you find and consider how Peter might use it to help write his novel.

If you already have a story idea you can use the same method to begin to research your own story.

Wait a minute! What are boolean and truncated searches?

There is a handy article on this website that explains what Boolean and Truncated searches are http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/become-better-at-finding-stuff-with-search-engines-boolean-search-logic-explained/

Also – watch the video… we made it especially for you. Finding Open Research with Charlie (Stephanie) Farley at the University of Edinburgh.

Find out more