February 28, 2018
“What do you look for when evaluating a source you are considering in your research? What evaluative questions do you ask yourself?”
It depends on the article. If it’s a nutrition/weight loss piece I usually want to talk to an Registered Dietician or a Nutritionist or someone with nutrition credentials that works for that piece. I might contact the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Association media department for a spokesperson they can refer for a particular topic.
If it’s a fitness piece, usually a certified personal trainer, someone with certifications like CSCS, or an ACE Fitness expert is a good start. Unless an editor asks you to interview a particular fitness influencer from Instagram, just because someone has amazing abs and a large following on social media doesn’t mean they’re an expert. Research the fitness expert’s name and background to make sure they have fitness certifications that suit your article.
When you’re trying to find sources for your articles, I recommend starting with national associations, universities, and looking to experts who recently published books on the topic you’re writing about. Then do your research about the expert. Look at other websites and blogs they contributed quotes to. Make sure what they’re saying is backed by research, data and facts. Don’t just contact the source because they showed up on the first page of your Google search.
You also might be assigned an article, slideshow or blog post that features “real people” which pretty much means “the public.” When I was assigned a freelance article assignment about breastfeeding for TheBump.com, I asked on Facebook if anyone had friends who might want to share quotes about their experiences. (I’m not a mom.) I also interviewed a doctor and a lactation expert to round out the piece.
I recently wrote a career piece for ReadersDigest.com and they wanted me to interview psychologists for the article on “Things to Never Say at Work to Your Boss, Colleagues, or HR Department.” If my editor didn’t specify that request for the freelance article, I probably would have talked to career coaches and career etiquette experts.
Before I do an interview for the article assignment, I usually confirm with an editor in an email: “I was going to interview a certified personal trainer and a registered dietician for this article. Is that okay” They might respond that that’s fine or they might say they’d also like me to talk to a medical doctor, too. I prefer to know what my editor expects before I work on the article, so there’s less back and forth after I turn in an assignment and I’m delivering a freelance article my editor is happy with.
(For a fun read, check out this article I wrote for MensFitness.com by interviewing female comedians about “12 Phrases That Drive Women Crazy.”)
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