Guest Post: Nikolas Baron – Research with a Shovel, Not a Spoon

Today I welcome guest blogger, Nikolas Baron to the Ramblings. Nikolas works for the marketing department of Grammarly, an online grammar checker. Nikolas loves the written word as much as the rest of us and has kindly contributed this piece on the appropriate tools and level of aggression required for research when writing. Take it away, Nikolas!

Have you ever seen the massive sand sculpture competitions?  According to the Sand in Your Eye website, sculptors use spoons to carve out fine details. There is a fun card game called Spoons. It reminds me of musical chairs a bit; there is one less spoon than there are players. One girl friend of mine shocked me with her alternate spoon usage.  When I asked why she carried a spoon in her purse, she told me it was to curl her eyelashes.  Thanks for bearing with me; I do have a destination in mind.  Why am I talking about spoons? Spoons are useful for eating and a variety of other things that the average person never imagines.  If you do not believe me, visit this website.  However, one should not use a spoon as a tool for researching a novel. Allow me to explain:

Silver Spoons

In doing the research for this article, I discovered an amazing use of discarded flatware.  Some artisans apply heat to spoons to shape them into bracelets and rings to create gorgeous, earth-friendly accessories. Let us compare this to researching a novel. You do not want an article that melts like metal when examined. You want solid, reliable facts that will hold their ground under the heat of scrutiny. There are plenty of smartypants who would love to point out inconsistencies, so make sure to verify facts, especially Internet quotes, across several reputable sources. Then, your research will withstand the pressure!

Antique Spoons

One practical way to connect with family heritage is to use items that one’s ancestors passed down through generations. One commonly inherited item is antique silverware. Silverware is sturdy and durable. Therefore, it retains its beauty as it passes from generation to generation. Antique research materials do not fare as well over the years. If one uses old reference books, one will find outdated information. This is especially true in reference to statistics. If you want to talk about the world’s population, for example, you will need valid statistics. In 1999, there were about 6 billion people in the world. Use current materials to find this year’s population.

Plastic Spoons

Plastic spoons are not the real thing. They are a copy of a real spoon created using an injection mold. If you lose your grandmother’s antique cutlery, do not replace it with a plastic replica. Even the pretty silver-colored faux spoons are a poor comparison to the genuine article.  Research is the most tempting text to copy.  Particularly if the writing is technical, one would rather cut and paste than reword it. Failure to paraphrase, however, is plagiarism. Cite your sources, and put the information in your own words. If you are unsure of how well you rephrased, perform a plagiarism check using an online website. What an easy way to make sure that you are working with good material!

Lost Spoons

You invite six guests for a fancy dinner.  At the last minute, you discover with horror that you are missing a spoon from your formal set. Of course, you will make sure your guests have the matching pieces, and you will give yourself the oddball.  However, what if more than one spoon is missing? In a research situation, you can try to cover up missing information by diverting the reader’s attention with other facts. On the other hand, the best articles do not leave gaping holes in the evidence. Make sure to fill in gaps with facts. Stay organized by designating separate folders for each writing project. If you conduct the majority of your research online, make folders for each set of bookmarked webpages.

There are spoons in every household.  Thousands of the spoons that wind up in resale shops are purchased as replacements.  Others are bought for use in craft projects.  Be proud to use spoons in these ways.  Beyond this, keep spoons out of your research. If you are going to use a metal utensil to do research, you will need something heavy-duty. I suggest a shovel.

By Nikolas Baron
Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.


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