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How I Do Research For My Stories

Any writer who wants to get facts right in their stories does research, whether that's looking into the laws of the land or finding out how a human body reacts to contaminants. Being a crime writer means there's lots of research to do. Given that I'm a stay-at-home mum there wasn't much I knew about investigating crime or the science behind forensics but after the research I've learned a lot and have been able to include that knowledge in my stories.


There are various tools I use to help me with my research but below you'll find the main things.




Websites



Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a whole host of information on all topics. It takes a long time to find what you're looking for sometimes but if you're willing to put in the time there's plenty of information available and there's always citations including books where information has come from. It's a great place to find quick information but if you want to go into more detail there are other sites.






What is research but a blind date with knowledge?

Will Harvey






The National Archives 


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The National Archives hosts all kinds of information that you can access for free if you're willing to go to Kew and read in their reading room. I use The National Archives to look at old true crime cases. You can search for cases including certain keywords and if the case file is open (Freedom of Information) you can order copies of the case file (for a small fee). I have done this with a case from 1940 in which a police officer, Jack Avery, was stabbed while on duty. It included witness reports, emergency services reports, a post mortem report, and hospital reports. Yes, it was mostly handwritten or typed on a typewriter so there was some deciphering necessary but it was definitely worth doing and I'd do it again.



NHS

A fantastic place to learn about the body's reactions to drugs, it lists symptoms of health issues and gives you an idea of any treatment necessary. There are certain differences between US and UK regulations so checking on the NHS website for UK specific information is a must.



Newspaper sites

Whenever there's an incident reported by the national newspapers it's always useful to read, especially if it's an incident that would help me with one of my stories. Journalists report on accurate information and often have contacts within the police service and get inside information about cases. 



Firearms UK


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Firearms UK is like the gun lobby for the UK and their website is where I learned about particular guns and that it is possible for civilians to own certain guns as long as they have the necessary license. Unfortunately I also learned that Firearms UK are like the US counterparts in that they want less gun control! I can't say agree with that, but the website has some useful information about guns and the regulations about owning firearms.




Books



Fiction

Although it's not really research reading fiction can help with ideas, or just tell you what to avoid. Some fiction has helped me firm up ideas that were stirring in my head, and most of the time they're not even connected but just reading someone else's writing can help you form the ideas.



Handbook of Forensic Science

This book has been invaluable. Using this handbook I've learned about fingerprints, blood spatter, footprints, all the things that help the police convict a murderer. It is a fantastic reference book and I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about forensic science.



Senior Investigating Officers' Handbook


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Used by police officers in this country (and anyone wanting to learn about police procedure) this handbook is incredibly informative. It's helped me learn about the police heirarchy, procedures during murder enquiries including witness questioning and suspect arrest.




Videos



YouTube

Filled with useful videos relating to crime. There are interviews of real life suspects like Levi Bellfield, examples of taking witness statements, and even shows following police on duty. While some of the videos are more about entertainment that relaying information others are highly informative and have helped me with certain issues.






Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing.

Wernher von Braun 






Whenever I research a topic I see it as an opportunity to learn as well as gain knowledge that will make my stories more believable. I love learning and there's always something new to learn with this topic. It includes psychology, forensic science, procedures and rules, and real people. I may have started out as a stay-at-home who knew nothing about the police and their procedures but after writing for a long time and spending much of my time doing research I'm far more informed and I'd like to think I understand forensic science (at least for the most part).


Have you had to do research for your job?

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