How to Research a Subject You Know...

How to Research a Subject You Know Little About: Writing A Curriculum for a Driving School

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

In high school and university, students often have at least some control over the topics that they write about in their papers and assignments. Still, writing about an unfamiliar subject might sometimes be necessary. When students graduate and find a job, they might find themselves writing almost entirely on subjects they know little about. Although this can be difficult, it is often a necessary task.

Online guides from colleges and universities often have valuable advice for students looking for a topic to write about for their assignments. For research and writing at that level, students are still learning to find credible sources of information and to organize their thoughts into research papers that meets the instructor’s requirements. In many cases, finding a topic that they already know and enjoy is good advice.

Outside the classroom, however, people are more often required to research the subjects that they are assigned, regardless of their own interests. For example, as a writer for a driving curriculum business, I have been writing articles on various topics outside my normal set of interests, including parking brakes, sun visors, and steering wheels. Although I have had a driver’s license for years, I know little about the actual functioning of the different vehicle parts. Writing a thousand words on each of these subjects can be a struggle.

Despite my lack of knowledge or interest in this subject area, I have been able to write over twenty driving-related articles already, with many more to come. To receive my paycheque, I have had to find ways of learning how vehicles work, even though I would much prefer to write about other subjects. Yet even writing about (to me) uninteresting topics can be a fun challenge, to see how much I can learn along the way.

Online writing guides suggest different methods of approaching unfamiliar subjects. Avoiding panic and beginning by looking up unfamiliar words can help in the process. The next step is research. For me, this often means finding sources that seem to be reliable, such as the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, or even websites like Popular Mechanics. Although the writers on these sites may make mistakes, their work is likely to have gone through an editing process that would catch some of these errors.

Once the research is done, it is time to start writing. One of the first considerations is the audience. In school, you write for your teachers or classmates, but later in life, you might have a far wider audience for your writing.

For the driving school material, the audience could be almost anyone, but it is likely to be people between the ages of fifteen and about forty who are studying for their driving test. They likely already have a basic knowledge of the different vehicle parts, but they might not know some of the details. Since my articles are for driver education rather than for training mechanics, I tend to focus on how the information affects the rules of the road and safe driving.

Researching an unfamiliar subject can be challenging but rewarding. With research and keeping the audience in mind, writers can help make the task easier.


Adams, Kristina. “How to Write About Something You Know Nothing About.” https://www.writerscookbook.com/12-steps-writing-something-know-nothing-about/.

Algonquin College. “Research Guide.” https://algonquincollege.libguides.com/research/define.

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