Investigating a crime novel: Guest blog by author/criminologist Jennifer Chase

Jennifer Chase, author and criminologist
Jennifer Chase, author and criminologist

I love to conduct research for a new book, especially when it’s in my area of expertise. This can be intimidating and quite burdensome for a writer, but I really enjoy this part of the creative process.  You can learn new facts that you didn’t know yesterday.

It’s quite amazing when you begin to outline the story you want to write and you realize all the little details you need to research to give your story that added dimension.  Even though I’ve studied intensely about forensics and criminology, I still find myself looking up things and asking questions.

Many people have asked me when is the best time to do research for a novel and how much research is necessary.  Well, personally, I don’t think you could ever do too much research.  Whatever you don’t use on the current project, you can use for something else, especially if you’re writing in the same genre such as thrillers, mysteries, and crime fiction.

When you’ve plotted out your basic story, make a list of what you need to research.  I generally do all my research at once, with only minor things that I need clarified throughout the actual writing process.

Here are some helpful guidelines that I use for my own research:

You can never have too much research and information.  Be creative and dig up interesting facts and information.

  • Plan your research well in advance or during your outline stage.
  • Take the extra time to budget your time in order to complete research in all the areas of your story.
  • Use every available resource: Internet, library, bookstores, used bookstores, professionals in specific fields, and read absolutely everything you can.  You can find informative books about all kinds of topics from flea markets, garage sales, and swap meets.
  • Don’t forget about using your camera to help inspire your writing project.  It helps to take photos of specific places or things that will give you great visuals for your story.
  • For interviews with professionals such as doctors, lawyers, police officers, etc., make sure you have a complete list of detailed questions before you conduct your interview.  Spend some time on this before you meet for an appointment so that you’re well prepared.
  • Keep all your research organized in file folders both on your computer and on paper.  It will make it easier to refer to your notes or use for another project in the future.


About the author:

Jennifer Chase holds a bachelor degree in police forensics and a master’s degree in criminology.  In addition, she holds certifications in serial crime and criminal profiling.  She is also an affiliate member of the International Association of Criminologists.   She is an award winning author with three thriller novels (Compulsion, Dead Game, Silent Partner) and a screenwriting workbook (How to Write a Screenplay).  For books and more information:




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