Thank you to Darlene Franklin for taking time from her busy, busy schedule to join me on my blog  (April 8 and 12) for a brief interview. God has really guided her through a lot and set her on a wonderful writing journey!

Today, I’m going to finish with the final installment of my three-part post on primary sources. So far I’ve talked about historical sources and how to locate them, offering a lot of resources and links to turn to for help. Now, let’s switch to contemporary sources, namely experts, and discover how to find them so they can be interviewed.

If you truly need an expert to bring solid facts to your story or article, there are several ways you can find one.

• Search out professional or trade organizations or associations related to the field you need to research. A good source for this is the Encyclopedia of Associations. Once you locate an organization you think may be helpful, call or email them and ask if you could speak to an expert or person of authority on your particular subject. Larger organizations typically have identified people who are willing to do interviews, so they may have people ready for you.

• Contact colleges and universities. First, check with local colleges to find professors  teaching on your subject, that way you can possibly interview them in person. If not, look at larger universities’ course listings for undergrad, graduate, and adult classes. Contact the school to find out how to reach the professor if there’s no contact name listed with the course.

• If your topic deals with products, manufacturing, or business, try public relations departments at corporations. Keep in mind that the companies may be biased toward their own products, but if you’re strictly looking for facts, this could be a good place to turn for experts. And, if it means some PR for the company, you may find executives willing to grant you an interview.

Network with who you know. Ask around with your friends, people at church, your co-workers, etc. Tell them what you need and who you need to talk you, and they just may know of someone. Or, they may know someone who knows someone! Also, when you do find an expert to interview, ask that person for a referral. People tend to be well networked within their own field, so it’s always worth asking for referrals.

• Research book sources, to help you start your expert search. One is called Dial-an-Expert: the National Directory of Quotable Experts, which comes out annually. Another is Who’s Who, which lists professionals in all lines of work and their contact information.

• Use the Internet. The internet is an easy way to search for and target companies or organizations in the field of your subject.  There are many websites geared to helping you find experts. One of the most popular is  ProfNet. Profnet started as a resource specifically for journalists but has since opened up to anyone who needs an expert. Once on the site, you’re allowed to ask questions that are then directed to experts in that particular field, who email you back. You can search by category and country.

A similar website is called All Experts. Here you can search by category and previously asked questions. Another is HumanSearch. The way this site works is that you search their database for questions they’ve already answered, to make sure yours hasn’t been asked before. If your question’s not there, you submit one and it is searched out. You get your answered emailed back to you in the form of websites to go to as well as direct answers.

While you can find general experts at these sites, with a broad knowledge in business, writing, politics, law, and other fields, there are sites that are more specific to a certain niche. Media Resource, for example, is strictly science related. You may also have some luck with a general internet search if you put in “expert+subject” in the keyword search.

Yet one more way to utilize the internet for finding experts is to join forums, groups, listserves, or blogs where your experts may hang out. If you need to research hot air balloons, for instance, search “hot air balloon forums or blogs” and see which ones look like there’s people on there who know what they’re talking about. You can always post to them, and ask members to help you locate an expert in hot air ballooning.

Have fun searching for experts! Next week we’ll learn how to interview them once we find them.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, for children or for adults, at some point, you will find yourself having to locate primary sources for your writing.  So what exactly are primary sources, why do you need them, and,  most importantly, how do you find them? The first part of this two-part post will focus on what they are and why you need them. Next Monday, I’ll offer some tips on how to locate them.

Primary sources, or original sources, as they are sometimes called, are firsthand, original, unedited, and uninterpreted works. They are created by the people directly involved in whatever the event was.  So if you’re looking for a primary source from the Civil War, you’ll need information from someone who was actually there.

These primary sources can take the form of personal letters, journals, or diaries, manuscripts, speeches, autobiographies, newspaper or magazine articles, art work, photographs, poems, films, interviews, or firsthand observations–just to name a few.

Primary sources differ from secondary sources in that, while secondary sources may also take the form of newspaper or magazine articles, as well as encyclopedias, books, or websites, secondary sources are just that—they’re secondary. These sources comment on, analyze, interpret, or summarize primary sources.

For example, an artist’s painting would be a primary source, but an article critiquing that painting would be a secondary source. An autobiography of Henry Ford would be a primary source, but a website discussing that autobiography would be a secondary source.

Both types of sources can be helpful toward your research, but primary sources will provide you with the most accurate information possible. What could be more accurate  than using a direct  quote from the person you’re writing about to share their firsthand observation on something, or getting solid information from an expert on the topic you’re writing about, instead of an opinion of what someone else thinks about it?

There are both historical primary sources and  contemporary primary sources. When you’re writing about history, be it nonfiction or fiction, you’ll want to look for two kinds of information: the factual history of the time and place of what you’re writing about, and the lifestyle of the people in that era. Or, of course, if you’re writing a biography, you’ll want all the details you can find about that specific person.

Some examples of the types of historical sources you may be looking for include: personal diaries or letters, art work or music from the era you’re writing about, legislation from that era, photographs, direct quotes (which can be found in speeches or interviews), autobiographies, or any type of original record.

In regards to contemporary primary sources, some may be the same as historical, such as newspapers, personal letters, speeches, or even government sites and records. In the case of sources like speeches and newspapers,  contemporary sources will be easier to find because there are more options available, especially when it comes to searching online. But there are some sources that will strictly be used for contemporary research. These include living experts, firsthand observations, surveys, and many internet-based sources.

Primary sources, whether historical or contemporary, are an important  part of your writing as they add the necessary factual details to make your fictional stories come alive, or to give you credibility as a nonfiction writer. If you write historical fiction, for instance, you’ll want to know what a typical family living in the 1700s might eat for dinner–and how they’d cook it. Or, if you’re writing about current cancer treatments, you’re going to want to interview experts in the medical field. In both cases, you’ll need to research primary,  or original sources to get the information you need.

Be sure to check back next Monday as I’ll go through the process of finding original documents and current experts and share some great resources to help you in your search!