From Malcolm Gladwell's MasterClass


Malcolm shares his guiding principles to uncovering a good idea for a story through research.

Topics include: Get Off the Internet • Go to the Library • Follow the Footnotes • Follow Your Curiosity • Find Stories That Speak for Themselves


Malcolm shares his guiding principles to uncovering a good idea for a story through research.

Topics include: Get Off the Internet • Go to the Library • Follow the Footnotes • Follow Your Curiosity • Find Stories That Speak for Themselves

Malcolm Gladwell

Teaches Writing

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The very thing that makes you love Google is why Google is not that useful. So you love Google because I want to know what the capital of Tanzania is. So I say, what is the capital of Tanzania? And it tells me, right? But that-- Google, in other words, has given me a dead end. I have my question. It answers my question. If I'm looking for a story, I don't want a dead end. What I want to do is I want to be lead somewhere entirely new and unexpected. So how do I get led to somewhere in entirely new and unexpected if I type in, what is the capital of Tanzania? I suppose I could type in "Tanzania." That kind of helps. But now, I'm still getting all the stuff on Tanzania. In other words, Google's too good. What you really want Google to do is to make mistakes-- to type in Tanzania, and Google gives me a bunch of stuff on Tanzania, but it will also randomly-- because it screwed up, throws in three things that are sort of about that, but are actually something entirely different that makes you think, oh, my goodness, I had never thought of this. Or-- and then Google gives you everything ranked by its popularity, right? That is the worst thing imaginable. Can you-- you're trying to write an article that's about something new and fresh that people want to read. What does Google show you? All the things that people have been reading. It's set up to confirm-- to confirm the direction that you're already on. And that's fine if that's the kind of story you want to write, if you know exactly where you're going. But I think the real problem-- the central challenge of the writer is the challenge you have at the beginning. What direction-- not what direction do I want to go in, right? I mean, of all of the different places I can go in the world, give me-- I want to find me some new, interesting place to go. And that is where the computer is not your friend. [MUSIC PLAYING] Librarians, as a class, are the friendliest people in America. Let's just start with that fact. Their job is to help you access the knowledge they have under their control. That's their job. They're trained to do that. It's what brings them pleasure. So once you understand that they're there for you, then it-- then the world is your oyster, right? You-- they want you to come into their library. They want to help you find stuff. They want to root through the archives for you. They want to do everything for you. And they-- I think their biggest problem is they think the world has forgotten about them. So you are, I mean, answering so many basic human needs by showing up at the library. So that's the easiest part of it. The hard part is-- the library is-- I mean, it is the physical version of the internet. I mean, it's like-- the problem is, where do you go? I even do things-- something as simple as, if I read a book that I really love, I will go to the library and I will see what books are around that book on the shelves, right? Because if that topic's really inter...

Transform the ordinary

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

The primary win for me was to open up Malcolm's mind as he describes the process of writing. For me, it was probably as much the side comments and incidental remarks as the intentional ones.

I've never read anything by this author, but I'm going to now. He seems like a wonderful human being and I want to hear his opinion on many subjects.

As someone who has just developed an interest in writing, this course has given me confidence that my interest is warranted and I am headed in the right direction.

Absolutely fabulous! Thoughtful and wise. Thank you.


A fellow student

Get off the internet... magical pdf found on internet. Ima go to the library and surf the internet with the librarian

Sabrina Z.

I live in a town where there was a school bombing in 1927. It's crazy when you look into the history of just your environment what you will find.

Delvin C.

SAME COMPLAINT! Again unable to download the .pdf. Error: This XML file does not appear to have any style information associated with it. The document tree is shown below.

Gianfranco C.

Download of PDF of lesson not working :( Browser, Google Chrome (Version 71.0.3578.98) on Mac


PDFs for intro, lessons 1-3 downloaded easily, 4 AND now 5 cannot be downloaded. HELP!

Brian F.

I haven't been to a library in years. I used to be fascinated with them and their towering shelves of knowledge. There's a small one nearby and a huge one in the city an hour away. Glad to have this homework and an excuse to visit again.

Joshua S.

Plus being at a library just makes you feel at peace — you don't get the same feeling downloading a book online

A fellow student

I am a college student working on a podcast and this class in particular was very useful for me. Doing research can be difficult when you are trying to tell a new story because you are borrowing from previously told stories. I think the point though that was mentioned about not looking for the most popular or the most commonly told side of the story is a really good way to keep your own story fresh. I have also found that when you are using older books or articles for stories, digging into their crumbs can help you unmask the gauze through which modern audiences traditionally look at whatever story you are telling and that is really the goal of good research. Thanks for the great episodes!

Brian A.

I live in a fairly rural area ... our library is beautiful and inviting and TINY. Haha. Maybe I'll need to drive a little ways to the closest university's library.

Marcos M.

I'm glad that I have a good library at my college because more often than not, I find that books and raw information can help develop the argument better than an online resource. Online it becomes a dredging process, and to tell which is correct and what to use is tough to determine and can hurt your piece in the long run, whereas books provide a better sense or placement and organization.