Interviewing Expert Sources

Thursday, July 05, 2012
You probably already know that editors want you to use the latest and greatest sources in your research. Primary sources in particular catch their attention. One of the best primary sources around is the expert interview.

When you interview someone who is an expert in their field, you have access to their most recent findings. You may get information that was cut from their own publications due to space limitations or simply may be known to professionals in the field but has yet to make it as far as the general public.

But before you can access this amazing information, you need to find the names of people to interview. Here are five places to look.

National Geographic Magazine.
National G, as fans lovingly call it, is one of the few mainstream publications that is a primary source. Academics and field researchers publish on their own findings. Search National G and see if someone has written an article on your topic.  I have used it to find the names of wildlife biologists and archaeologists.

Google Scholar.
Unlike a run-of-the-mill Google search, a Google Scholar search seeks out your search term among scholarly sources. Pick through the results and you’ll find a list of journal articles. Not only will these journal articles count as primary sources, many journal articles include the e-mail addresses of the researchers who authored them. You can also go through the article bibliography to find the names of additional researchers.

Universities and Museums.
If you need to interview an archaeologist and the university has an anthropology or an ancient studies department, give them a call and see if there is someone specializing in your field. You can also call appropriately themed museums. This was how I found the geologist who I not only interviewed but who also reviewed my natural sciences article.

Hobby and Professional Organizations.
When I was writing profiles on a wide variety of horse breeds, I always started my research by looking for an appropriate breed organization. Whether your topic is rock climbing or cocker spaniels, an organization most likely exists for enthusiasts. These groups not only have information packed newsletters but they often have experts among their founders. Take a look.

I’m not going to tell you that every expert I approach says yes to an interview but I write numerous articles every year based on information gleaned from interviews. Why not use interviews to spice up your own writing with the latest information on a topic?


Author Sue Bradford Edwards blogs at One Writer's Journey.


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