Leverage research to enhance thought leadership

Using credible evidence will support your writing in numerous ways. Firstly, it backs up your advice and experience with that of experts who have conducted research. Secondly, you relate to “right” brain individuals who want to understand where your ideas come from and whether they have a credible basis. Finally, it shows that your methodologies enjoy wide support within the financial planning and investment management industries.

You don’t have to — or want to — support every single point with evidence. That could make your writing overly academic and dry. However, you’ll want to support important claims with evidence. You’re probably already aware of peer-reviewed journals in your field that are solid sources of evidence, such as The Journal of Financial Planning, Financial Review and The Journal of Retirement.

Where to find research

Google Scholar stands out as a fairly painless way to access peer reviewed articles. Inputting the search term “sequence of return risk” into Google Scholar turned up thousands of articles that include this term. If you have access to an academic library as a faculty member or a student, you should be able to access many professionals journals.

Subscribing to the blogs of researchers whom you admire is another way to stay up on the research that you can use to support your solutions. For example, if you specialize in retirement planning, a great ongoing source of research is the website Retirement Researcher, where Wade Pfau, PhD and other distinguished retirement researchers blog regularly on their findings and the implications of their findings.

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College and the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) are two other great sources of research and research interpretation. In fact, I’ve subscribed to EBRI updates for 15 years and continue to find them valuable in my work to support financial advisor solutions in thought leadership, books and other marketing materials.

Leverage technology

Instead of reinventing the wheel and spreading your research notes over emails, scribbles and actual text references, utilize a research app to streamline the writing process.

Included on my list of apps designed to facilitate the writing process is research App Evernote, which allows you to save and organize articles, links, notes and other source material. Trello and Noteability have similar functionalities that are helpful in the research process.

Many book authors rave about Scrivener, which super-sizes the writing, research and accountability processes. It’s a premier app for writing long-form and may be the one-size-fits-all book writing solution that can help you streamline your efforts.

Integrating research into your writing

Since you’re not writing an academic research paper, you have to walk a fine line between building credibility through sourcing research and going down the rabbit hole of too much information. As you weave sourcing into your writing, stay focused on what your reader persona cares about.

I find that a sentence or two that summarizes the relevant research is usually enough. If you’ve got a great direct quote from a research source, use that. Direct quotes are very powerful because they are primary sources that back up your claims.

Citing research

Of course, you must cite your research. I use endnotes in Microsoft Word and keep running track of my citations. Going back after the fact and trying to track down all the evidence you used is a major, major hassle.

At some point, you’ll need to select a citation style and stick to it. Which one? That’s the question. There are advantages and disadvantages to different citation styles. Check out The Financial Advisor’s Guide to Finishing Your Book for my recommendations. If you’re not sure which one you want to use, collect at least basic information on each source for your preliminary citations. They should include:

• The full name of the publication

• The author or authors

• The date of the publication

• The title of the article

• The article URL

• The article page (if you can find it)

If this type of work drives you crazy, you can always outsource it to your administrative assistant — assuming you have one — a virtual assistant, an intern or one of your kids. I’ve employed one or both of my kids from time to since they were in high school. It gives them some earned income, gets annoying tasks off my plate, and keeps them from asking me for more money.

Go forth and research

Research is way more than poking your nose through various dusty archives. I know that you will find it a valuable way not only to enhance your knowledge about your field, but also to increase your value-add for your clients.

You may find yourself referring to your research in prospect and client conversations, which serves to greatly enhance your credibility. Research can actually be exciting and when you’re pumped about the latest research, it clearly shows to your clients and prospects.