How Much Research is Essential for a Crime Thriller?

I love to conduct research.  This can be a thorn in a writer’s side, but I really enjoy this part of the creative process.  Just think about it… you learn something new every time you research.  You can actually learn a new fact today you didn’t know yesterday. 

It’s quite amazing when you begin to outline the story you want to write, you realize all the little details that you need to research to give your story that added dimension. 

Even though I’ve studied intensely about forensics and criminology, I still find myself looking up things and asking questions.  And, there are those little details that you need to read more about or ask someone who would know the answer.   

Many people have asked me when the best time to do research for a novel and how much research is necessary.  Well, personally, I don’t think you could ever do too much research.  Whatever you don’t use on the current project, you can use for something else especially if you’re writing the same genre such as thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction. 

When you’ve plotted out your basic story, make a list of what you need to research.  I generally do all my research at once, with only minor things that I need to clarify through the writing process.

Here are some helpful guidelines that I use for my own research:

  • You can never have too much research and information.  Research.  Research.  Research.
  • Plan your research well in advance or during your outline stage.
  • Take the extra time and budget to be able to complete research in all the areas of your story.
  • Use all available resources: Internet, library, bookstores, used bookstores, professionals in specific fields, and read absolutely everything you can.  You can find interesting books about all kinds of information from flea markets, garage sales, and swap meets.
  • Don’t forget about using your camera to help inspire your writing project.  It helps to take photos of specific places or things that will give you great visuals into your research.
  • For interviews with professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and police officers, etc. make sure you have a complete list of questions.  Spend some time on this before you meet for an appointment so that you’re well prepared.
  • Keep all your research organized in file folders both on computer and paper.  It will make it easier to refer to your notes or use for another project in the future.

Enjoy your research!

I would love to hear about any helpful research tidbits that has worked for you, please feel free to leave a comment.

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Crime Watch Blog:
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Books: Compulsion = Dead Game = Silent Partner = Screenwriting

About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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3 Responses to How Much Research is Essential for a Crime Thriller?

  1. Terrific post because research is crucial to not only ensuring accuracy but to sustaining a readership.

    A great deal of my research was done beforehand when it came to my mystery TIES THAT BIND. After all, how could I organize a police department if I didn’t know the hierarchy? And that’s just the basics. I also needed to know forensics, and how to calculate things such as TOD for one.

    For my research I use a combination of books and the internet and cross reference the material. This not only establishes what I’m reading is indeed fact, but helps clarify my understanding.


  2. Prem Rao says:

    For me research is essential to lend credibility to what I write. We have access to so much information these days,that I prefer to avoid the information overload by being very specific in what I seek to research.


  3. Great post and timely for me. I agree that research is essential for building up a trust factor with the reader. I am revising a short story with a hostage situation and my draft readers flagged some believability concerns re: the police response time and 911 interactions. So I dug in to fact checking mode to get it right. Glad I found your blog…keep up the great tips!


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