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As we focus our thoughts – which we do in research – we create an energy mechanism that sifts and sorts information behind our conscious reality. The need to know often brings us a surprisingly specific response. For example, as I was thinking about this article on research, my old friend Gary McAvoy called. A natural guru of search, Gary has made a business of search engine marketing and website optimization (www.gettothetop.com).
In catching up since we last talked, Gary mentioned that he had just seen author Paul Hawken during Hawken’s tour for his new book, Blessed Unrest. Gary’s comments about how Hawken came to write the book seemed to fit in perfectly with this theme of research. What I found so interesting is that Blessed Unrest grew out of Hawken’s noticing the sheer number of business cards from non-profit organizations he had collected after fifteen years on the speaking circuit.
In his introduction, Hawken says,“"Did anyone truly appreciate how many groups and organizations were engaged in progressive causes? . . . So curious, I began to count . . . The more I probed, the more I unearthed . . . as I discovered lists, indexes, and small databases . . . I now believe there are over one – and maybe even two – million organizations working toward sustainability and social justice." His research reveals a larger, unrecognized perspective, giving readers a sense of connection, wonder, and hope.
Research for nonfiction, especially a subject such as spiritual development or personal growth, often requires reading the ideas of those who have published before. When I was researching the two experiential guides for The Celestine Prophecy and The Tenth Insight (novels by James Redfield), I had many topics to research – for example, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences, remote viewing, quantum physics and the unified field, ecological principles, shamanic practices and energetic healing, and transpersonal psychology to name a few.
A synchronistic breakthrough in my research occurred one day while I was eating lunch and opening my just-arrived subscription copy of the magazine from the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). This issue featured an article entitled, The Rise Of Integral Culture, by sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson. The piece described a large segment in Western society that has recently developed beyond the standard paradigm of modernists versus traditionalists. The authors called a new segment of adult American society (50 million strong) cultural creatives or New Progressives.
They later published a book, The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing The World (Harmony Books, NY), which amplified their research findings on this growing group who are interested in non-mainstream methods, environmentalism, and social justice. In a very real sense, these two authors had done the meta-research on the population, who were most likely to resonate with the spiritual and energetic insights in The Celestine Prophecy.
For me, discovering the cultural creatives gave a face to the audience for the Celestine guide books. Following this important piece of the puzzle, it was a matter of almost effortless networking – using my intuition to ask others with whom I came in contact who they knew in a certain field – in order to meet people who could bring the nine Celestine Insights to real life.
The Rule of Fair Use
As I read through the myriad of authors on the subjects I was investigating, I did, of course, come across great descriptions, explanations, and quotes that I wanted to use in my books. It was during this period of research, that I had to come to grips with the principle of copyright and fair use. While there are guidelines, there seems to be no definitive rule about when one must get permission to use copyrighted material – except for poetry or music lyrics, both of which require permission and sometimes a fee. I found the most safety in using no more than a few sentences or short paragraphs from prose books, and crediting the source with good bibliographic endnotes.
Until the last few years, I used to call my local library and ask for the reference desk. To the wonderful reference librarian I would entrust my question, and wait patiently on the phone while he or she dug into the files for me. Now, of course, I turn to Google. I searched the Internet twenty-two times in order to research this article. And yes, I used Wikipedia. Three times.
There are many sources and techniques to aid research for the development of nonfiction. Follow your passion, figure out what it is you need know, and focus on the discovery. These first steps will lead you to the right resources along the way.
[Author's photo by Gary McAvoy]
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