Research: It’s for the books. And us

Today I thought we should talk about the importance of education. Pay attention in class, boys and girls–or you too may end up writing comic strips.

I still remember the first research report I ever did, in fifth grade. I listened carefully to my teacher’s explanations: This is a primary source. This is a secondary source. Here’s an encyclopedia, but you can’t use it for more than one source. Take notes on index cards, and make sure to cite all sources.

In the Wikipedian Era, this advice may sound laughably outdated, as relevant to our 21st-century lives as quilting bees and kerosene lamps. But allow me to assure you that the skills I gained doing this project have proved even less relevant in my everyday life.

That’s not to say that research is a thing of the past. We may not be using actual encyclopedias (hey, youngsters, did you know that encyclopedias were once printed on paper? wild, right?), but if we want the Kichels strips to read as authentic, for our readers to feel like we have a window into their lives, then we need to be sure the details and dialogue ring true.

If you’re following along with the Kichels in Mishpacha magazine, you’ve noted that Yaakov and Chaykie are trying to buy a house. To make sure these strips felt real, and not, say, as if they were written by a comic strip writer with zero knowledge of finance or the mortgage industry, we had to do some real, fifth-grade style research.

This meant reaching out to some very knowledgeable (and patient) professionals: Nechama Norman of XP Realty, and Sarah Hoffman of the Federal Savings Bank, who walked us through the jargon and drama that Yaakov and Chaykie would likely meet in their home buying journey.

Nechama was also kind enough to share some great stories with us…which waltzed from our Zoom call straight into the panels of the comic.

And that’s another research lesson: seek out smart, perceptive, and fun people, and let their insight elevate and inspire your work. (But like Mrs. Jacobs said, don’t forget to cite them!)

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