Professional nonfiction writers often have trouble finding information too. Even a nationwide or worldwide search may yield little information on a specific topic. For example, when I was working on No Monkeys, No Chocolate, I was frustrated that no one had ever written about the animals that interact with cocoa trees.
For my current work-in-progress about prehistoric creatures, I’m finding a lot of conflicting information in the scientific papers I’m reading. Some days I feel so confused because I just can’t tell which sources are the most reliable.
What do I do when I hit snags like these? I ask an expert. And there’s no reason your students can’t do the same thing.
Over the years, I’ve built relationships with scientists in various disciplines. These researchers are always happy to help me track down little-know resources or identify the leading theories among scientists in a particular field.
Your school can create a similar community of experts. Everyone is an expert in something. By surveying parents at the beginning of each school year, you can discover what they’re passionate about and whether they’re willing to answer questions on that topic from a child doing a report. You can also identify community workers who would be willing to assist students. It’s a great way to help students understand how professional writers go about their work.