How to Become a Research Writer

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Research writers are able to take complex information and explain it in lay terminology. They know how to conduct extensive research and how to use and maintain databases. These writers, sometimes referred to as technical writers, can be found in many fields--most of them technical or scientific. Generally, research writers are adept at researching, organizing, analyzing and explaining data. Becoming a research writer means not only mastering the basics of spelling and grammar, it also means mastering a set of highly specialized skills.

Education

  • Go to college. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, writers should at least have a bachelor of arts degree. Most employers look for writers who have majored in and/or studied English, journalism and communications.

  • Focus on one or two specific areas or subjects. In addition to excellent writing skills, research and technical writers need to have expertise in the specialized area that they intend to write about. Most research and technical writers have studied math and science extensively. Many research writers are professionals--such as scientists, doctors and lawyers--who analyze data and write about technical subjects in their field.

  • Become proficient in your computer skills. All categories of writers need to have a working knowledge of basic word processing and email software. Research writers need to be familiar with searching for facts on the internet. They must also be familiar with and comfortable with working with databases. Research writers also have to be comfortable working with graphing and spreadsheet software, as their writing often involves explaining facts and statistics.

  • Get clips or published examples of your writing together for your portfolio. Most employers who are hiring writers ask to see a resume and a few examples of published work. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recommends gaining writing experience before you enter the marketplace by working on your high school or college newspaper. This is also a good way to begin building clips for your portfolio.

    Another way to acquire published writing clips and professional writing experience is by obtaining an internship at a firm or media organization. Oftentimes, interns are assigned short pieces and asked to do research. Internships often offer no pay; but they can be a valuable foot in the door that may lead to a steady paying position.

  • Decide on the industry and field that your research writing will focus on. Keep up with the latest advancements and trends in your field. Join professional associations and subscribe to the prominent industry trade publications. Trade publications are not only required reading for research writers, they are also potential clients and employers.

Tips & Warnings

  • Move if necessary. If you live in a small town or in a rural area, you may need to relocate in order to find research writing jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most writing and editorial jobs are concentrated in and around the largest U.S. cities.

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