Author and publisher Dennis Tucker of Whitman Publishing makes a great case for an orientation for detail in numismatic research and writing in an
article published July 1, 2019 on Coin Update. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to see the complete article online. It's a must-read for
anyone working on a numismatic manuscript. -Editor
Coin books at the Whitman booth
In March 2019 Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker spoke about writing and research to eighth-grade students of Meadow Glen Middle School
(Lexington, South Carolina). This is a transcript of that lecture.
Hello. My name is Dennis Tucker. I'm a professional writer and editor, which means I get paid to do the things you're studying and
practicing in school.
Since 2004 I've been the publisher at Whitman Publishing, a company that produces books mostly in the fields of history and
antiques-and-Collectibles. Many of our books involve numismatics, which is the study of coins, tokens, medals, and paper money. This touches on
history, art, technology, industry, mining, banking and economics, metallurgy, geography, and many related subjects.
I've been a coin collector since I was about seven years old. So not only do I get to help create books, which is something I love to do, but I
get to work in what is essentially my lifelong hobby.
My general advice to writers is to know your subject matter; know your audience, and know your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator.
Take your research and writing seriously, but don't take yourself too seriously. By that I mean
- be humble,
- always be a student—in other words, always think of yourself as someone who is learning, and
- have fun with your work.
Being a good communicator is an important skill. It always has been. It always will be. Good communication is useful, and valuable, in every field
of human endeavor. I mention this not only because of the importance of sharing thoughts and ideas between people, but also because, on an individual
level, being a good communicator will open up career opportunities for you.
If you're writing nonfiction, your reputation as a researcher and author will depend on the integrity of your work. Are you accurate? Are you
precise? When you go beyond reporting facts and you draw conclusions, are they based on reliable sources and careful reasoning? Can your readers
trust you as an authority on your subject?
Often in research, primary sources will be your best friend. That means going to contemporary newspapers and government documents, letters
and diaries, autobiographies, interviews, and the like.
Of course, keep in mind that primary sources can be colored by personal perspectives and biases, or they might contain mistakes. So don't depend
completely on any one primary source. Gather information from as many as you can. If you find discrepancies, look for reasons why.
If you ever find missing pieces in the puzzle of your research, resist the temptation to fill in the blanks with speculation. Or—if you must
speculate, and you present a hypothesis or an undocumented possibility, keep these three things in mind:
- base your reasoning on as much historical evidence as you can,
- explain your thought process to your reader, and
- make it clear that what you're writing is speculative.
Let me give you three case studies on the importance of research. The first is about a researcher whose ground breaking work was marred by a
strange weakness; the second is about a young writer, not much older than you, who solved a 200-year-old mystery; and the third is an example of a
primary-source document that had some hidden traps.
Well put. I doubt I or anyone could frame the argument better. The case studies are short and each clearly highlights an important point. Be sure
to read the complete article online. -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
The importance of good research and writing
Wayne Homren, Editor
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