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The power of research: Interview with Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols writes Anxiety, Panic & Health, a blog about anxiety disorders. When I read any one of his posts, the first thing that strikes me is how well researched it is. I decided to ask Mr. Nichols about his site, his writing process, and why he spends so much time in the library. If you are having trouble getting started writing an article or essay, here you can get paper help. By the way, I’m sure he’d like me to point out that he is @mikenichols0 on Twitter.

Who are you and how does that prepare you to write Anxiety, Panic & Health?

The majority of my working life has been in music, with 14 years in the computer industry. I am now retired. My first degree was in Musicology, which is the study of the history and literature of music. Musicology is heavily research-based, and I learned how to do research, organize my findings, and write the results working on this degree. This skill has been very helpful throughout my various careers.

I have had bipolar disorder since my early 20’s, and developed anxiety disorders in the past decade. I decided to learn everything I could about my mental disorders, reading everything I could find — books, journal articles, and internet articles. I also have written extensively about these disorders. I like to think of myself as being as well-informed as any layperson could expect to be, given my resources.

Why do you write about your mental health issues? What are you trying to accomplish?

I decided some years ago to not hide my mental disorders from others. I am a firm believer that concealing them only contributes to the stigma of mental illness in our culture. In addition, I have come to look upon my mental illnesses as an odd kind of gift, one that I can pair with my writing gift to be of service to others.

When I first started studying my diagnosed mental disorders, I was shocked to find that there is not much information available to a layperson that is reliable, accurate, unbiased, and comprehensible. There is a distressing amount of hype, misinformation, and unsubstantiated claims. The only source of trustworthy information is highly technical, so I have had to school myself in psychology, statistics, and other subjects to understand them.

What is your goal?

My goal for Anxiety, Panic & Health is to help people who are suffering from anxiety disorders know more about them and to learn how to regain functionality. I want to provide a source of reliable, understandable information for the general reader. The tagline for the blog is “Living with Health, Wellness, and Wholeness.” I believe that it is a goal that can be attained by the majority of mentally ill people given the right kinds of help.

Describe your writing process. How do you go from the inkling of a need to write to pushing publish?

  • I get my ideas from my own experience, from books and articles I am reading, from my extensive reading on the internet, from the search terms people use to find my blog, and from the comments and emails I receive from my readers.
  • The research and writing process takes from 4 to 30 hours depending on the complexity of the subject, which in turn determines the length of the article and the number of research sources. My procedure for writing a researched piece, rather than opinion, is as follows:
  • Clear my mind of any preconceptions I might have about the subject. Objectivity is foremost.
  • Start researching with no limits on the amount of material I will accumulate. This is important: If you limit yourself from the beginning, you will not get the kinds of sources necessary to write with authority.
  • Read and take notes from physical books and journal articles from my library, and sometimes from the local college library.
  • Start searching the internet for resources, evaluating them based on the JAMA and HONcode criteria. If any reference is particularly pertinent or sparks ideas, I will follow the trail, being careful not to go down a rabbit hole.If you have no idea for your essay or term paper at all, you can get research paper help.
  • Typically, I end up with at least 10 research sources for each article after reviewing as many as 100 potential sources. The number of research sources has reached as high as 60 for a long and complex article.
  • Read the research materials closely, copying and annotating relevant passages and quotes into my working document, along with keys to footnotes. I also put key words and phrases into an outline document.
  • Make an outline of what I intend to say in the article. I create section headers in my working document and move the excerpted research material into them based on the outline.
  • Write the introduction of the article first, since this holds the gist of what the article is about. If the article has a summary, it will be written at the same time, so that I am clear about the main points I want to make.
  • Section by section I review the notes and begin to write the copy. As I write, I turn my internal editor off, and just type what flows out the ends of my fingers.
  • I read through the first draft to see if I am making the points required. Should a section or idea need more clarification, I go through the research process again.
  • The second draft is basically editing for logic and to make the copy flow. I read this draft out loud to make sure it makes sense and is not too wordy.
  • The third draft edits for style and polishes rough edges. Footnotes are numbered and a footnotes document is completed. I rewrite the introduction and summary, if needed.
  • The final edit is to make the document ready to be cut and pasted into the WordPress editor, for example writing pullquotes, removing extra linefeeds, copying in the footnotes, and inserting boilerplate text.