by Lesley Bown and Ann Gawthorpe
Most articles benefit from some background information or facts and figures and unless you are confident you have enough knowledge in your head then you will have to do some research. Even if you already have the information it doesn’t hurt to check its accuracy.
The first port of call will probably be the internet and researching that medium is dealt with elsewhere as is interviewing people. Other sources will depend on what you are researching but will include public libraries, national and local newspaper archives, PR agencies and press offices as well as personal contacts.
The first rule is to use primary sources wherever possible. These include original documents such as birth certificates, first person reports such as from witnesses to an event, or facts and figures from a reliable source. Secondary sources include reports or books based on original documents, articles based on hearsay or accounts written long after the event.
Bear in mind that information from secondary sources can be suspect or biased, so wherever possible cross check it against other sources. The same applies to information supplied by PR agencies and press officers who may have their own agendas, so again try to cross check it.
Finally, remember that most information will be copyright so it is illegal to make a straight copy into your article without permission.
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