Researching for Your YA Novel - Uncharted

Researching for Your YA Novel

By Riv Begun

Most novels, whether they take place a hundred years ago or two years ago, require research.

From figuring out what color uniforms students would wear at a particular school, to reading letters in tough cursive from the 18th century, there are many ways to find the right sources, even if you don’t live near a large university or archive.

A well-researched novel shows in accurate details and historical context that it wouldn’t have had otherwise. Now, in the age of the internet, we have access to plenty of resources for research, from interviews online to academic articles.

The Library

Visit your local library and search for books on your topic. Ask your librarian (aka your local superhero) for recommendations on your topic. Most libraries have plenty of e-resources as well. Ask about access to e-books, audiobooks, and films available to you through your library card.


A quick search is a good way to begin your research. The internet is filled with archives, online museums, and academic articles that could provide you with the information you need for your story. Search for resources that are credible and accurate, and make sure to double-check your sources.


Read books related to what you’re writing. Even fiction can be helpful. See how other authors depict the era you’re depicting, or how they use dialogue to create the world.


If you live close to the place you’re researching, see if you can find historical archives about that location. Research university archives or museum archives. Often, all it takes is booking a room and writing the archivist to get the chance to look over primary resources.


Visit museums on your subject. They are a great resource for learning about the era you’re writing about and the items and documents on display could spark ideas for your story.


Find documentaries on your subject. One added bonus is getting to really visualize what the setting of your story looks like. Look up the experts interviewed in the documentary and see if you can find books or articles they’ve written about your subject.


Listen to podcasts on the subject of your book.


Find people that might be helpful for your book, whether they’re from the time period you’re talking about, experts in the subject, or inspiration for characters. You never know what you’ll find from listening to others. Sometimes all it takes is an email. Most people are flattered and excited to talk about their lives or a subject they’re passionate about.

Research is an important part of the writing process, but be sure not to get stuck in it.
There’s a point where we all need to start writing, and we can continue researching as we’re writing.
Writer Katherine Arden does initial research and then researches as she writes, and writer Lori Banov Kaufmann says she knew every detail about the world she was writing before she began.
However much you need to research before starting to write, make sure to have fun with it and stay organized. The most important research is the research you can refer to later.

Good luck and happy writing!

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