Fiction Skills: Research

Convert dry facts and random material into compelling stories packed with atmosphere

Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, you’ll draw on facts, research and personal experience. This four-week course, run by our partners at Faber Academy, shows you how to take the raw material from internet trawling, library sessions or your own notebooks and diaries and turn it into engaging writing. You’ll be encouraged to use background reading to kick-start the creative process, and explore ways to use research material to transform a nice story into something more unusual, more credible and more substantial.




Fiction Skills: Research is suitable for complete beginners or anyone who’s taken a beginners’ fiction course and wants to broaden their knowledge, explore new skills and develop their research habits and techniques.

The course is suitable if you:

  • Have never carried out research before and want to know how and where to start
  • Already do some research but want to become more efficient and effective at it
  • Want to explore different sources of research
  • Are keen to learn how to apply good quality research to your writing
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive group of learners
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course

Tutor Philip Marsden will introduce you to the skills of a good researcher and how you can use these to help you plan your fiction or non-fiction writing.

Over two sessions, Philip will help you explore practical ways to test your ingenuity and build know-how as a researcher while you work within a supportive community of fellow writers keen to share their experiences with you.

Session 1: Approaches to research
We’ll explore some of the skills and steps involved in research, including background reading, note taking, and the use of sources. You’ll look at different writers’ approaches to research, reflect on your own practices, and try your hand at some active research.
Session 2: Putting research on the page
We’ll look at how to turn notes and facts into compelling prose. You’ll explore how researched details can be used to engage the reader and bring scenes and stories to life. We’ll also look at the use of language, style and tone when putting your research onto the page. You’ll write a 2,000-word piece using the techniques you’ve practised. You’ll have the chance to share your work with the group, so you can give each other feedback.

You’ll learn in Faber Academy’s online classroom, which is open 24/7 so you can balance your learning around your work, family and friends. You’ll work in a small group of fellow learners so you can discuss ideas, ask questions and share your writing as you progress through the sessions.

You’ll learn from:

  • Podcasts from Philip Marsden
  • Written guidance from Philip explaining how to carry out effective research
  • Specially selected reading extracts and suggestions for further reading
  • Q&A forum with your tutor to answer your questions
  • Group discussions to help you think about your own approach to research
  • Research exercises to help you practise and develop your own skills and apply this to your writing, from the first session onward
  • Online discussions with writers in your group and the chance to share and give feedback on each other’s writing

You’ll need:

  • 5-7 hours per week to work through the course
  • A notebook and pen or pencil, if you like to make notes by hand
  • A laptop or computer* with:
    • A reliable broadband internet connection
    • Speakers or headphones
    • The latest version of Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Edge, or Safari
    • Microsoft Word. If you don’t have this you can download Open Office free
    • Adobe Reader, latest version. Download free
    • QuickTime Player, latest version. Download free

*You can access the course from a tablet or smartphone, but we recommend using a laptop or computer, as this makes it easier to share your work files with your writing group.

Join the Faber Academy alumni

After your course, you can join the online alumni where you’ll meet the growing network of past Faber Academy students. The alumni is a friendly group of writers who support each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing.

Within the online alumni area you can:

  • Rejoin your classmates on a private forum and access an archived version of your course materials and forum posts
  • Meet alumni from other Faber Academy courses and groups and share your work for feedback on our alumni critiquing forum
  • Join in on discussions about reading, writing, editing and ideas on our general discussion forum. This is also where we share news and useful info
  • Retain access to our resources area, which has interesting and informative links
  • Chat with other people online using the alumni area live chatroom. We also host live chats with guest tutors, authors, agents, editors and publishers

Commission a report on your work

If you’d like to receive a personalised, detailed report on your final piece of writing from your course tutor, this is available at an extra cost. You’ll receive detailed written feedback assessing your ideas and writing, plus advice on what steps to take next.

Taking things further

If you'd like to continue on to another Faber Academy course, you'll receive a discount. Please get in touch for more details.

This is a Faber Academy course, so you’ll need to book through their website.

What our students say...

This is my third short Faber course over the space of roughly a year and using all of my learning from them I’ve started writing short stories and entering them into competitions. I am going to do the same with the final piece I wrote on the Research course, so the questions, queries and tips from fellow writers in the group has been most useful.


What our students say...

I really found the practical exercises to be very helpful. I enjoyed the close reading, dissecting writing practices and research methods, and liked the way everything culminated in the final assignment. I found myself digging through past journals, Word docs, etc and putting to practice what Philip has been teaching us for the past week and a half.


What our students say...

Thank you so much to our moderator Lucy for all her efforts and endeavours behind the scenes. Everything went so smoothly and I’m sure that was in part thanks to her!


What our students say...

I really appreciated Mr Marsden’s responses to my questions about writing and research. This has been a wonderful course and I have learned plenty.

Chong Teck

What our students say...

The Research course has given my writing a boost and I’ve found the feedback from other members extremely helpful and formative. It’s also great to continue to have contact with the alumni circle of writers.


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