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Writing

Research

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 08:07 min

Can research be sexy? Maybe! Roxane teaches you how vital research is to the writing process and how you can best approach research in your writing.

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Roxane Gay
Teaches Writing for Social Change
Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] - Research is one of the key components of my writing process, because I like to make sure that I'm as knowledgeable as I can be on a given subject before I write about it. It helps to write from a place of authority, and research underpins everything I do. Now, the extent of the research depends on the nature of the piece and the scope, and so on. But I tend to have research questions, and I list out those research questions and then I go find the answers. And it's exciting in some ways, because you start to learn a lot about a subject. I recently wrote an essay about nemeses, and so I researched the origins of the word "nemesis" and I just started searching the internet, and I learned all about it. And you know, sort of the Greek gods and Nemesis and how that all came to be. And then I used that to tie in with this nonsense that I do on the internet, which is talk about my nemeses. I have 10. And that was really fruitful. And of course, sometimes the research is far more serious. When I'm writing about social justice, I like statistics. To talk about the state of the world as it is, you know, you have to prove what you say is true. You have to substantiate your claims. And evidence goes a really long way in substantiating your claims. And so when you're talking about racism and injustice, you can use information that will show the material impact of it, because there are a lot of people who simply will not be swayed by your feelings. They're not interested in your feelings. They aren't-- they're also not interested in your personal stories, and that's where the research comes in. The reality is that most of what I research never ends up on the page, but everything that ends up on the page has been informed by what I've researched. And whether you're writing fiction, poetry, or nonfiction, sometimes you're just going to need more information. I did a lot of research for "Hunger." And I was surprised by how much research I needed to do for "Hunger," because it's a memoir, and I know myself, so what could I possibly need to research? But there were questions I had about my childhood, and so I actually talked to my parents and looked through a lot of childhood photo albums to refresh my memory. And I did quite a lot of research on body mass index and statistics around fatness not only in the United States, but throughout the world. I did research on Oprah Winfrey and her relationship with Weight Watchers. I did research on a lot of these weight loss television shows, like "The Biggest Loser" and "My 600-Pound Life." So I did a lot of research for that book, and the book is better for it. When you back your ideas up with evidence, you tell your reader, I respect you enough to tell you that I'm an authority on this topic. And you don't have to be the world's foremost authority, but you do need to be able to speak credibly on the subjects that you write about. When you look at a lot of t...


About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.



Reviews

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

Representative of an underrepresented community through a bold voice

This was an excellent, inspiring, and informative class. Well done!

I felt she gave some valuable insight and information. Roxane spoke from the heart.

This has been the best class I have taken through Master Class. Regardless of your genre, this class is worth the time if you want to be a writer.