How would you plan to spend 3 months travelling in the eastern third of the USA?
Describing the outline travel plan in the Welcome paragraph was the easy bit! Now I am responsible for building the complete itinerary for the trip! Where to begin and what to choose? This dilemma took me straight to the heart of the research process – how to find out about things that you don’t yet know versus researching more about what you already know. For some aspects of the trip I know the question I want the answer to (can we travel by boat north up the Hudson river from New York?).
For much of the rest of the planning, I have general knowledge gaps about everything! – landscape, key historical events, significant locations – to name only three! The first type of question requires a targeted approach to the research to locate something that I know exists. To tackle the general knowledge gaps I will need to research more broadly, learning about culture and places without quite knowing how I will use the information on the trip. To use an appropriate metaphor, it’s mining versus prospecting! Drill down deep to find the facts and range far and wide to gain the bigger picture. This good tip came from a research article here: http://lithub.com/how-to-write-what-you-dont-know/
A further source of stimulating ideas is coming from novels. Tracey Chevalier introduced me to the Great Black Swamp of Ohio. Here in the 1830s, struggling pioneers settled where their wagon got stuck. I found that discovery intriguing and naturally, that set off a few hours of ‘prospecting’ and wanting to know even more.