Posts Tagged ‘research’

Do Your Research

Saturday, November 26th, 2016
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Whether you’re writing a historical or modern or fantastical or futuristic scifi novel, do your research. If your character listens to the radio in World War II, what exact kind of reports are they listening to? Is there music? Which songs, what genre, what is the character’s opinion of it and does it contrast with the historically recorded attitude? (You don’t necessarily have to pump all this information at once. Or at all. But if you choose to include that detail about the radio, then it’s significant in some way and it does contribute to the character’s definition.) If you’re writing a CIA spy novel, what screening process do people actually have to go through now to enter the CIA? Would your character have to worry about it or not?

Even in completely invented settings, the details matter. You won’t have to do much concrete research, but do consider that while you don’t care about the economical structure of the futuristic dystopia that you’ve invented, or maybe the specifics of swordsmanship are irrelevant to your medieval-esque fantasy, someone will question it. The issue of how your characters make money or whether money is even extant matters. A saber is not an epee is not a foil is not a broadsword, and certain actions simply can’t be done with a broadsword. If you just wing it, your novel will lose credibility.

A common Terry Pratchett Discworld theme to keep in mind: people can accept a large, improbable event in your characters’ lives, but they more readily notice and reject wrong (or missing) details.

On researching while you write: inevitably, you will come up with extra scenes or maybe change a character’s profession to better suit your novel. It’s easy to Wikipedia whatever details you want to add, but of course that usually devolves into lost hours clicking around on Wikipedia. Sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow uses this tip: when you come to a point that needs research, just type “TK” where your facts should be. The combination of the letters “TK” is rare in the English language, so you can do a quick document search at the end of a writing session to find where you need to fact-check.

Sidebar: Excellent places in the city to research:

The National Archives (201 Varick Street)

Houses or has access to all government-related archives in American history. Excellent collection of primary sources, from genealogy to previously passed economic policies. Good for historical American novels or more general research on political intrigues. Call ahead if you want to use an archived material in person.

The New York Public Library (Main Branch on 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue)

Holds archives on several different topics in its various branches; art and architecture at the Main Branch; Performing Arts in the Lincoln Center Branch; science and business at 188 Madison Avenue branch. Great for reading in general, but especially good for nailing down the details in your settings. Protip: The Main Branch also has a huge collection of original manuscripts from interviews with common New Yorkers to the papers of writers such as Truman Capote and James Joyce. It’s worth checking out, but if you want to take notes, use the paper and pencil provided. The librarians will not hesitate to throw you out if you write in pen. Or use your own notebook.

Central Park (Central Park)

Work on your tan and eavesdrop on passing conversations. There’s no limit to the topics that people willingly discuss in public, and it’s a great way to pick up and squirrel away some idiosyncrasies of humanity.

American Museum of Natural History (200 Central Park West)

Scads of scientific information, as well as physical reproductions of animals existing and extinct, an exhibit about space, and everything in between. Iron out the scientific justifications for your aliens’ appearances (as H.G. Wells does in War of the Worlds), or visualize your nomadic protagonist trekking across the sweeping savannahs of Africa.

International Travels (Various)

Not writing your novel on Americans? Have a love affair with Western Europe (like T. S. Eliot) or perhaps East Asia (like Pearl S. Buck)? Well, sometimes, it’s nearly impossible to get a feel for your (Earth-bound) setting unless you actually physically visit. The importance of small details in daily life, like tipping in restaurants or physical proximity to country borders or a country’s layout around bodies of water, aren’t prominent until you have to deal with a different system. (Did you know that microwavable burritos are not common in England? If your British character gets the munchies, kebabs or fried chicken are more likely.)

By Robin Yang

Robin Yang was one of the Campus Clipper’s publishing interns, who wrote an e-book on how to write a novel. If you like Robin’s writing, follow our blog for more chapters from this e-book. We have the most talented interns ever and we’re so proud of them! For over 20 years, the Campus Clipper has been offering awesome student discounts in NYC,  from the East Side to Greenwich Village. Along with inspiration, the company offers students a special coupon booklet and the Official Student Guide, which encourage them to discover new places in the city and save money on food, clothing and services.  

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Giving Back: Research Organizations

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

In my opinion, working with kids is fun and not usually nerve wracking, so the most stressful step of deciding where to volunteer is the research process. Back in high school, volunteering was easy because teachers seemed to always have good suggestions about organizations, but now that you are out on your own, figuring out where to start can be stressful and confusing.

As I stated before, recognizing your strengths is a critical step towards volunteering, but put that on hold for a minute. Researching: this is THE most important step to volunteering, at least in my humble opinion that you should take, if you want to succeed, ever. Okay maybe not, but a step that most people forget is to research organizations before simply jumping in. We are constantly fed information all day long, what to wear, what to eat, and as much as we think we are rebels (which we clearly are not) we accept the norm. Don’t let this pattern apply to where you choose to volunteer. Research each organization. If you are clueless about where to start, just simply follow these steps to ensure that you will find a trustworthy company.


  1. Question Why
    Ever have someone come up to you on the streets of Manhattan asking if you are 21 in order to sign a petition? Of course you have! If you haven’t, consider yourself lucky that you don’t have to lie every time, awkwardly responding with, “nahhhh sorry I’m twenty”, giving your best childlike smile and breaking away. So when a disaster strikes and a number pops up on the screen demanding your donation, put down your phone. Don’t you dare text a dollar amount to that number without researching first. Ask yourself, why? Why should I donate to you? Many people each year become victims to unreliable companies. Last summer CNN teamed up with the Tampa Bay Times in order to investigate “America’s Worst Charities”, charities that waste a huge percentage of their donations on wages and solicitors. During this investigation they discovered that many people were donating to the Kids Wish Network. At first glance you might think, “oh yes I heard of this, they send children to Disney blah blah”- No! That is Make-A-Wish Foundation. Many companies similar to the Kid Wish Network camouflage their name and purpose in order to sound identical to a more popular organization. After CNN posted this article many people who had donated to the Kids Wish Network started retaliating against the group. In the study, CNN realized that the Kids Wish Network only donated 3 cents of every dollar to the cause. This means that when you donate, only 3 percent of your donation goes toward helping children. Which leads me to the next tip.
  2. Question How Much
    When working with an organization you should know where your money is going. Don’t settle for a roundabout answer. Investigate the details of your contribution. Charity Navigator is a company created to assist with this issue. You are able to search for an organization, leaf through the charts and facts to find out where every cent of your donation goes. It even displays feedback from people who have donated to the specific cause and their experience with the company.
  3. Question How Often
    As important as it is to investigate the percentages, sometimes it is just as essential to watch how consistent a company is.  For example, the Red Cross gives about 90% of the donation towards their purpose, but they are not always consistent. After 9/11, the Red Cross was getting backlash from many contributors because the people realized that only one third of their donations were used for the victims in New York. Because of this backlash, the Red Cross made the decision in November 2011 to donate the whole amount to the cause. The issue with donating is, as a contributor you don’t always know what your money is specifically going to, but the positive note, in the Red Cross’ instance, is that the company is so large that it is always under close watch. In order to help eliminate this problem you can donate to specific companies that are based on a fixed amount or product.  For example, the popular One for One program with Toms or the $7 fixed donation at Sevenly. Most people have heard of Toms, but honestly, how many shoes do you need? Sevenly is an organization that sponsors different causes each week. They design t-shirts and posters for customers to grab, and with every purchase you make $7 is donated to the cause. Whether you spend $10 or $35, seven dollars is always donated.


If you can't decide on a style just pick a Grab Bag, 3 uniquely designed shirts from earlier causes. Select your size and the price is less than buying 2 shirts!

Obviously, it is vital to stay up-to-date with organizations and find one that fits your passion. Although we are all poor college students, we need clothes. So why not buy clothing with a purpose? Check out Sevenly today or sign up for weekly updates and support an organization that matches your passion! Remember, before you reach for your cash, debit card, or sign in to your PayPal account, ask “Why? How much? And How Often?”

Click here to learn about Sevenly and change up your wardrobe


Oh and I forgot to ask, where do YOU like to donate?


Samantha Bringas

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Interning in NYC: Tips for Writing Your Cover Letter

Monday, June 7th, 2010

One of the most crucial components of the internship application process is your cover letter. Essentially, the contents of this letter provide potential employers with their first impression of you, prompting them to read your resume and decide if they want to call you for an in-person interview. Thus, it is extremely important that your cover letter represent you in the best possible light. While writing your cover letter, remember these points:

1. Write individual letters for each company. Standardized form letters not only lack creativity, but also imply a lack of interest in the position to the person reading it. Taking the time to write individualized letters shows the reader that you possess a sincere interest in the company and the position that you are applying for, which presents you as the better candidate.

2. Research the company. Make sure you know the basics of the position and the company that you are applying to, and be sure to add some of your findings into your cover letter (i.e. as reasons why you want to work there, why you admire the company, how you can help fulfill the company mission, etc.) Again, this helps to convey your personal interest in the organization and will help you land an interview.

3. Support any claims you make with specific examples. This is your time to brag about your accomplishments and show the reader why you would be an excellent addition to their team. So if you say in your cover letter that that you excel in the classroom, be sure to tell them about how high your GPA is or about your two years on the Dean’s List.

4. Use a professional tone and proofread your letter. You want to your future employers to think that you are serious about work and that you are capable of behaving properly in a professional environment. Making jokes or having any grammatical/spelling errors shows them that you do not care about making a good impression.

For more info and tips, here’s a useful website that I found while I was writing my cover letters. It not only gives you more information and tips, but also provides you with examples of good cover letters and other business correspondence, such as thank-you letters and networking letters. So have fun writing your way to an interview!

-Christina Brower

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