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A Scientist Describes 4 Strategies To Develop A Research-Based Book In A Much Shorter Time

Written by: Dr. Raman K Attri, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Writing a research-based book requires a unique set of strategies. Authors have unsaid responsibility to be accurate and fair while writing research-based nonfiction. While research provides enough grounds for developing an idea into a book, writing the actual manuscript may be an overwhelming task because of the complexity of the research, referencing, connecting the ideas, and keeping the treatment of the text in check.

In this article, I discuss some foundational approaches to crafting a nonfiction manuscript grounded in the research.

The challenges of writing a research-based book

Over a year ago, I finished writing one of my 20 books, titled Accelerated Proficiency for Accelerated Times.” The book is about the concept and methods of speeding up employee performance to the level of proficiency or mastery so that they are ready at the pace of the business. It is thoroughly grounded in previous research studies to distill wisdom in an organized fashion. A lot has been written on learning, skill acquisition, performance, or proficiency, but there was not much literation on how to speed up proficiency. I am one of the few experts researching and writing about it. So, through this book, I undertook this initiative to present a well-rounded concept of accelerated proficiency to scholars, academics, and L&D specialists.

I faced three challenges while crafting this book. I am sure others writing a research-based book face some similar challenges too:

First, my outlook was to make a perfect piece.

I was trained as a scientist. So, by nature, I am very detailed and analytical, and I love content. In a way, my research could never end. In the back of my mind, while developing this book, I wanted it to be a perfect piece.

Second, the book was topic was brand new.

Nothing much has been written about it. So, this was to become the first book on this topic of accelerated proficiency. As such, the challenge was how to build a foundational book that appeals to scholars and practitioners to take forward this budding area. If the topic is relatively new, the author has a lot of pressure to connect the dots.

Third, the book was fully grounded in research.

Connecting dots became even more challenging when the book was grounded in research of previous studies spanned over four decades. It was massive content. Research on any new topic opens up like branches of trees, and those branches expand into subbranches and so forth. One needs to be sure and absolutely clear which of the branches you would not want to follow. Otherwise, research becomes a never-ending loop, and the manuscript will never see the daylight. So, the key challenge was determining the cut line how far and how deep I should go to conduct my research.

So, it can be very overwhelming when you have that kind of perfectionist mindset coupled with a vast amount of content grounded in research.

Three approaches for great research-based authorship

The philosophy that saved me and helped me overcome those challenges was my education as an engineer and my product development thinking. I considered creating a book akin to creating a tangible, high-quality, finished product, for example, iPhone. I view my product as going through stages like analyzing, designing, developing, prototyping, manufacturing, and distribution. In my thinking, prototyping is writing, while publishing is like manufacturing it. That also means a lot needs to happen during development before we prototype or write in this case. From that angle, the actual paper-pen writing becomes less important than what has to happen before you pen them down.

Four strategies helped me tremendously to finish this impossible-looking manuscript.

1. Targeted scoping before the development of an idea

When product developers design a product, they don’t pack one product with all the available features. Rather, they take a tiered approach by packing a specific set of features into one product model. Then they differentiate the other models of the same product with a different set of features.

On the same line, I began to slice, dice, and scope the ideas and content for the book on a very narrow niche. I started with the big idea of accelerated proficiency, but then it had tons of aspects that required extensive research and write-ups. It could have been all-encompassing one book. But it would have never gotten finished, either. So, I went one layer down and thought about keeping the scope only on the concept and methods. Scoping is also important for market positioning.

My scoping process included slicing my ideas down, defining the scope, and then de-scoping it along the way by removing things that did not seem to fit.

It takes heart to cut things out when you are so much attached to an idea. That’s why I do this scoping and de-scoping even before I write a single word. It is easy and more practical to do at that stage than cutting out the written content.

I learned the hard way to curb my tendency to overload it with other seemingly important ideas.

2. Capturing ideas natively

As an author of multiple books, I think that to be a great writer, what you need is a discipline for one thing – a discipline of capturing, archiving, relating, and accessing ideas or random thoughts in an organized manner.

I have a very versatile mind. I don’t get into any specific author mode. Sometimes, ideas will strike me while taking a shower or while driving. As an author, we should not underestimate these random thoughts and threads that pass through our heads at any time of the day or night. These precious ideas need to be preserved to ensure you don’t lose them when you are actually writing. As an author, that’s flesh and blood of what we do. If you learn to preserve your ideas in their native form and keep them on your radar consistently, you will constantly think about utilizing them somewhere.

However, preserving the ideas natively could be hard in the form they came to you initially. That’s where some kind of system like journaling, archiving, or classifying systems would come in handy. Some tools may be very convenient, like mind map software and apps like One Note, Samsung Notes, etc., which do not constrain or press you to write a polished version of your thoughts. This approach goes a long way in shaping the manuscript.

I keep an app on my phone to make quick voice notes if my hands are busy doing something else. On other occasions, I would use a stylus to scribble the thought quickly. I also carry a pack of post-it notes with me to quickly capture my thoughts.

3. Organizing a vast range of ideas systematically

How do I organize these thoughts to develop a manuscript? Well, I relied heavily on mind maps or conceptual maps. Before I wrote even a single word, I developed everything in the form of visual outlines. I used hand-drawn mind maps, and sometimes I used mind mapping software to lay out my ideas, connect them together, and organize or classify them under groups.

However, I did not restrict my thought process here—some of the mindmaps spread to several pages. Any new idea or thought that strikes me, I inserted it at the most logical place in the mind map. Then I could shuffle the ideas among various groups and sub-groups in accordance with the scope I had defined earlier. That’s how I could keep my project slim and focused. This whole process took several months. But during this, I refrained from writing until I thought that visual maps were complete. This approach gave me a visual structure, like chapters and then sections.

At one stage, I transferred this onto outline software like OneNote, which allowed me to create a section-wise outline. This is the place where I added text, pictures, references, links, and supplementary resources and expanded upon my ideas in written form.

When I believed my base material was ready, I used professional writing software like MS Word or Scriver to finish my manuscript.

4. Spending more time on development than on writing

World-class products like the iPhone or others undergo a lot of development of concepts, finalizing the features, and testing out the prototypes before they decide to manufacture them. I think along the same lines that, we can also create a creative, brilliant book using a similar engineering approach. So, I spent a lot of time developing this book before I wrote it.

At the outset, I followed scoping exercise. After that, I worked out that scope into something I could visualize, like what kind of book I was writing and how readers' reading experience should be.

Then, I moved on to create a visual outline while continuously capturing and organizing my thoughts. At this stage, I finalized sequencing and organizing the flow of ideas. This is where I could decide what met my scope and what not and that helped me stay on course and did not let me become overwhelmed with the amount of content. It also curbed my perfectionist tendencies, as I viewed my development in sprints like 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0. That way, I was clear about which revision of my thought process I was shaping out in the form of the book.

In a nutshell, I invested my efforts in development to hash out structure down to sub-sections. Once I did that, my actual writing effort did not take over 20% of my time.

Speeding Up Your Journey Towards World-Class Authorship

Through two decades of extensive research and after authoring 23 books, I have cracked the code of how someone can accelerate their journey towards becoming a world-class author in half. If you like to learn the thought leadership on how to approach developing your masterpiece book, then tune into and see how it could speed up your transformation towards true world-class authorship in a much shorter time.

Reach out to me on my website to access a range of resources, articles, and mentorship programs to speed up your success in the marketplace, in your profession, and in your job.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Dr. Raman K Attri, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Raman K Attri is a performance scientist and the world’s leading authority on the science of speed in professional learning and performance. Undeterred by his permanent disability since childhood, he transformed his inability to walk into his niche expertise to teach others how to walk faster in their professional world. Equipped with over two decades of vast research and corporate experience, he guides leaders and professionals on proven strategies to shorten the time to proficiency of the workforce. A prolific author of 20 multi-genre books on business, leadership, training, learning, and performance, he writes about human excellence. As a learning strategist, he innovates state-of-the-art training methodologies to speed up the learning of complex skills at a Fortune 500 technology corporation. As a global training leader, he manages a Hall of the Fame training organization, named one of the top 10 in the world. A highly passionate about accelerated learning since childhood, he earned two doctorates in learning, over 100 international educational credentials, and some of the world’s highest certifications. Among his most recent projects, he has founded the XpertX portal to inspire people to learn the art and science of speed in all walks of their life. As a professional speaker, he speaks at leading international conferences around the globe and shares his research-based insights, and continues to be an inspiring personality.



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