Author and historian David McCullough (John Adams and Truman are two of his best-known books) is known for his ability to bring historical characters and events to life by finding the human story at the heart of everything. And he does it through painstaking research.

Regardless of the type of writing you do… take a page from McCullough’s book if you want to know how to be better at writing.

Before you set one word down – do your research. Your writing will have more impact and make readers stand up and take notice… and that’s useful whether you want them to buy something, donate money, visit a place, or just keep reading.

Plus, because you have plenty of material to work from, you won’t suffer from writer’s block. And the words will come fast and easy as you write.

There are two parts involved in effective research:

1. The Audience

In short, you should know the thoughts, feelings, and desires of those reading your copy. You can look at market research. Talk to past customers. Frequent blogs and online forums. Ask your client’s customer service people to tell you about the calls they receive.

2. The Topic

You also have to know what you are writing about inside and out. Study the product, the place, the service – as well as the larger industry or market it’s in. Get a sample of the product and play around with it – test it. If it’s a program, go through it as a user. Visit the place. Read all you can about it.

You have to truly understand both the audience and your topic on a deep level to write effectively.

Web writer Heather Robson says that once you have the research part down, the trick is to find the connections between them.

“Review your research and look at how it goes together,” says Heather. “You want to find ways your research weaves together to make a strong, cohesive picture that argues for the value of buying the product you’re selling.”

Master copywriter Arthur Johnson recommends you spend at least as much – if not more – time researching as writing.

As Johnson says: “Your research is where your originality comes from. The tidbits of information your research uncovers will make your copy believable and compelling. You cannot write a strong and believable proof section without good research.”

Starting any writing project by doing thorough research is a guaranteed way to become better at writing.