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How to Research for Content Writing: A Step-by-Step Guide

Research is the foundation of effective content writing. Whether your goal is to inform, entertain, inspire, or persuade, solid research will lend your content the credibility and authority it needs to rank.

Strong research takes time, there’s no doubt, but it ultimately gives your writing more substance, accuracy, and actionable advice that readers can use.

In this step-by-step guide, I’ll shed light on how to research content writing while sharing tips and tricks that I personally use to streamline my research process.

Table of Contents

How to Conduct Research for Content Writing Step-by-Step

Now that you see the critical value thorough research brings to content writing let’s explore the step-by-step process for effective research.

Step 1: Identify Your Core Topic, Audience, and Questions to Answer

Start by defining the primary topic and subtopics you’ll address based on client needs or your site objectives.

Also, you need to determine who you are creating content for and their informational needs and interests. This lays the foundation for targeted research around their concerns.

From there, identify the specific questions you seek to answer and the issues you want to address through your post. Make sure they align with the searcher’s intent

For example, say I’m writing a buying guide for parents around “best family cars under $30k” and targeting parents looking for spacious and safe cars fitting tight budgets.

My research would focus specifically on prioritized features like cargo space, reliability ratings, and affordability-related questions for that buying group.

Note: I’ll use this family car example throughout the article to drive my points home.

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Step 2: Use Search Engines to Explore Subtopics, Related Terminology, and Top Searches

Enter your topic and sub-themes into Google to analyze results on pages 1 and 2. Google’s auto-suggestions also reveal how people search for content around your topic. 

The questions and subtopics from this process indicate subjects to research to satisfy reader inquiries specifically.

Evaluate competitor content as well. This shows if certain subtopics get covered extensively while some queries remain unaddressed. You can differentiate your content by focusing on those unexplored areas.

Search engine insights also highlight broader terminology and keywords to incorporate for seamless, natural optimization.

For my family car buying guide example, Google results show that people frequently search comparisons around “mid-size SUVs.”

So, I’d research and contrast popular options like Toyota Highlanders and Honda Pilots. I find sparse advice on “choosing car seat configurations” among results, making it a prime content differential subtopic.

You get the point.

Step 3: Consult Reputable Websites, Studies, and Data Sources to Gather Facts

The next step is identifying respected sites and publications related to your niche that provide well-sourced information.

Publications like The New York Times, research journals, non-profit websites ending in .org or .gov, and data providers like Pew Research or Statista offer accurate reference facts.

Bookmark pages and download relevant studies for easy access later. Use tools like Google Scholar to discover detailed data about your subject.

For researching family cars, I’d tap sites like Consumer Reports and J.D. Power for vehicle reviews and rankings.

Government transportation databases provide statistics on car safety tests. These credible inputs build an evidence-based buying guide.

Step 4: Interview Experts to Get Quotes and Insights

Reaching out to subject matter experts takes your writing authority to the highest level. Their commentary endorses your perspectives and provides the exclusive context you won’t uncover otherwise, even through extensive reading.

Seeking a range of specialists provides balanced viewpoints on complex issues, too. Connect with them through social media, professional associations, company websites, or services like Help A Reporter.

For my family car buying article, I’d interview child passenger safety technicians on fitting car seats properly as this niche expertise improves advice uniqueness.

Getting mechanic viewpoints on model reliability also helps recommend the best vehicles.

Step 5: Organize and Analyze Your Research to Determine Key Themes

Review accumulated materials like notes and bookmarked pages to spot connections between data points. Do certain statistics or conclusions keep arising? What angles remain controversial across sources?

Identifying these research patterns will help you determine positions or recommendations to focus on.

I may notice through family car reviews that the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot have overwhelmingly high reliability and owner satisfaction marks. This signals the need to emphasize and contrast these specific models in my buying guide as leading choices. 

Affordability challenges may represent another key theme for my audience to address separately.

Step 6: Outline Sections and Subtopics to Cover Based on Your Research

Shape precise sections addressing your target audience’s questions and writing comprehensive yet digestible content. 

Divide broader topics into manageable subsections on specific issues uncovered through research review.

Consider weaving in subtopics around controversy or new developments, which initial topic brainstorming may have missed without thorough investigation. This ensures content feels authoritative and broader than a typical post.

For my car buying guide example, beyond just rating different cars, I’d structure sections around “Comparing Top Family SUVs on Reliability and Safety” and “Fitting Car Seats and Strollers.”

This elevated focus stems directly from research findings as opposed to generic points.

Step 7: Write a Draft Incorporating Research to Answer Questions and Provide Value

Integrate research findings seamlessly within your writing using quotes, specific facts, and data points. Link to original sources using hyperlinks for readers to access primary references, too.

Try to keep the questions and pain points identified for your target audience front and center as you write.

Address their concerns directly while working in statistics, quotes, and contextual information educationally. Also, structure the flow and transitions smoothly between the research aspects you highlight.

For my car review sections, I’d incorporate J.D. Power dependability rankings and crash test results from government databases while directly addressing “safety” and ”reliability” questions parents have.

This draws the connection between research inputs and addressing reader priorities.

Step 8: Fact Check Details and Cite Sources

Double-check that your statistics are accurately quoted and that data points match the provided context and dates. 

For quotes, ensure proper credit by mentioning someone’s professional credentials and links wherever permissible to build citation integrity.

I’d validate that the SUV safety test results I mentioned align with those model versions’ corresponding years. 

Sources should be credited clearly with the experts’ full names and titles.

Step 9: Review and Refine to Ensure an Authoritative Yet Engaging Final Piece

Analyze flow between ideas, smoothness of sentence structures, and appropriate paragraph lengths for online readability.

Break up lengthy paragraphs and signpost takeaways using subheadings. Insert graphics if helpful for visualizing complex data sets.

The finalized piece should be read authoritatively, reflecting mastery through research-backed insights shared clearly and conversationally. 

It should adequately answer reader questions while encouraging engagement through compelling presentation.

The Benefits of Conducting In-Depth Research

Conducting extensive research for your articles or blog posts comes with multiple advantages that make it an indispensable practice.

Creates Content That Provides Real Value

Research allows you to delve deeply into a topic and become an authority. You can address common questions and pain points for readers and provide actionable and fact-based advice they won’t find elsewhere.

Well-researched content is useful, practical, and provides true value. Readers recognize this substance and are more likely to trust you.

For example, if you’re writing a post on “how to start running for beginners,” you must research common obstacles like injuries, creating a plan, and nutrition. This equips you to address those specific concerns rather than just writing generic tips.

Leads to Higher Search Engine Rankings

In-depth research ensures your content targets relevant search terms and topics that readers seek information on.

You can focus precisely on what people search for around that subject by identifying keyword opportunities during research.

Optimizing your pages for those keyword terms can boost your website’s search engine rankings.

If your content comprehensively focuses on the right topics, search engines also recognize you as an authority, improving rankings over time.

Builds Your Credibility and Authority on a Topic

Proper research separates amateur writers from subject matter experts.

You build authority and gain the reader’s trust when you back up your writing with facts, quotes from specialists, and credible references. 

Demonstrating expertise establishes you as a thought leader readers keep returning to.

For instance, referencing prominent research studies and interviews with psychologists makes your articles on relationships more convincing and authoritative.

This separates your relationship advice from random people expressing opinions without proof.

Helps Write More Comprehensive and Insightful Content

Conducting research uncovers angles of a story you wouldn’t know just off the top of your head. It reveals “holes” in superficial understandings of a topic that readers often have.

What’s more, thorough research leads to more well-rounded, insightful content by showing what aspects other writers may have missed.

For tech posts, for instance, researching the history of a product and interviewing its inventors can provide unique perspectives beyond just describing product features.

These insights make your content more enlightening.

Enables You to Fact Check Details and Avoid Errors

Research allows verifying specifics like statistics, historical facts, and terminology for total accuracy. This attention to detail boosts credibility so readers don’t undermine your writing due to simple factual mistakes.

Say you’re writing a historical piece on Cleopatra; research enables you to confirm specifics about her life and reign rather than weakening your analysis with incorrect dates or details.

Keeps Your Content Up-to-Date

Topics trend over time, and new information arises frequently. Conducting thorough research ensures your writing won’t become outdated soon after publication. Staying current instills additional reader confidence.

By keeping on top of a field through regular research, you can continually produce evergreen and relevant content, even on subjects prone to change.

Overcoming Research Obstacles

Conducting extensive research inevitably exposes common frustrations that can hamper writers. Being aware of these challenges and deploying solutions ensures research progress doesn’t get derailed before content creation.

Information Overload

It’s easy to keep gathering more data aimlessly without clear direction.

Prioritize specific research aspects that address your defined audience considerations rather than attempting to digest everything loosely connected.

Access Constraints

Sometimes, key statistics or expert commentary critical to your piece may come locked behind paywalls.

In these cases, check if limited free trial periods give access or whether your client has existing subscriptions to leverage.

For gated research content, summarize key aspects without quoting verbatim.

Topic Tunnel Vision

Rigorous investigation around narrow subtopics can cause a loss of perspective of the broader piece’s purpose.

Frequently reorient back to core reader questions and knowledge gaps identified earlier to avoid over-investigating tangents.

Stale Information

Re-verify the timeliness of sources frequently. Data sets, studies, and trends turn outdated fast. Confirm nothing gets cited well past relevance, even if discovered through a reputable portal.

Repurposing Efforts for Multiple Content Types

Research processes for long-form writing, like blogs and articles, also kickstart other content types with minimal repeated effort. Reformatting existing materials generates more assets at your disposal as a writer for amplified impact.

Research origins powering added formats include:

  • Website Content into Pitches: Shape extensively researched ideas into single-paragraph pitches for freelance writing gigs. Mastery displayed convinces editors immediately.
  • Article Research Into Videos: Rather than scripting entirely new video content, convert researched blog post themes into scripts for YouTube. Repurposing saves sourcing additional facts.
  • Stats Into Visuals: Transform dry statistics from research into engaging infographics. Draw fresh visibility from new mediums.
  • Interview Notes Into Podcasts: Extensive interview transcriptions and call summaries provide perfect podcast fodder. Section out key quotes as episodes covering subtopics deeply.
  • Ebooks From Topic Overviews: Combine research paper overviews into condensed, consumable eBook guides around popular subjects you uncovered.

Savvy writers extract the absolute maximum mileage from proven research efforts. Each piece powers multimedia content types targeting different audiences but anchored in core analysis.

That hallmark research foundation continually expands creative options and reach.

Wrap-Up

Creating well-researched, insightful content fuels success as writers and bloggers in the long run, much more than hastily constructed posts.

While thorough research initially requires significant effort, it leads to clearly differentiated web content optimized for users and search engines.

You should apply this rigorous yet foolproof process for integrating effective research into your next client or website content project.

Gradually, you’ll find wide-ranging subject mastery translating into improved domain authority for your brand, which this process facilitates holistically.

Phillip Stemann
Phillip Stemann
I love SEO. It's what I live and breathe. I took a different approach than the average SEO expert. I started as a programmer, transitioned into the technical aspect of SEO, which I've always found interesting, and then focused on content using the right tools, which I'm reviewing on my YouTube channel.

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