Chapter 5 of 24 from Malcolm Gladwell

Research

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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

Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing

In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.

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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, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers devour 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 craft online for the first time. Write stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.

Learn Malcolm’s writing practices—including how he finds stories in unexpected places—through on-demand video lessons.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental materials.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Malcolm will also answer select student questions.

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Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing