->''"How many other women have you semi-stalked in the name of research?"''
-->-- '''Kate Beckett''' (asking Richard Castle if she's his "second"), ''Series/{{Castle}}''

Some questions raise eyebrows and suspicions when asked. Questions like "What's the best knife for slitting someone's throat?", "What do you need to make a pipebomb?" or "How would you go about hacking into the FBI's database?".

Occasionally these are things that characters in fiction need to know how to do in order to do what they do. Which means the writers need to consult experts, otherwise [[HypocriticalHumor overly picky]] {{geek}}s will go onto websites and [[HomePage wikis]] and complain about how they got their facts wrong.

Luckily this works for characters in fiction too. Bob can ask for suggestion how someone could hide the bodies in his trunk by telling Alice that he's writing a book about a murderer with several bodies in his trunk. Occasionally, she will PullTheThread on this and Bob will either come up with a story or have the plot be what actually happened.

Similarly, a HighSchool student can get away with just about anything by claiming "it's for a school project" or "it's part of my homework". This includes acquiring dangerous objects for an art or chemistry class.

Sometimes. Of course, this can be inverted: Bob really ''was'' researching for a murder mystery book and becomes a [[RedHerring chief suspect]] when a former friend of his drops dead.

Unfortunately, there are instances in RealLife where people trying to research potentially dangerous or volatile information got investigated, and in some cases arrested, despite the fact that they ''were'' actually researching for a book or paper. However, pretending to be researching is also a tried and true SocialEngineering tactic, making this an example of TruthInTelevision (with the variant that information as suspicious as the listed above is usually not requested for obvious reasons: usually Social Engineers ask apparently more harmless tidbits like technical jargon or internal proceedings, so they can impersonate employees more easily). Even authors who hadn't heard about this tactic could probably figure it out, since as they did research for their book, people gave them potentially dangerous information without batting an eye. Examples of this can be found in Kevin Mitnick's book ''The Art Of Deception''.

A subtrope of the BavarianFireDrill, compare IHaveThisFriend. Comes up a lot because MostWritersAreWriters. See also FilmFelons. Compare to WildCardExcuse. Compare IShouldWriteABookAboutThis, when the unusual experience comes first and gives someone the idea for a book. When the research shows up clearly in the finished book, that's ShownTheirWork.


[[folder:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* In ''Manga/TsubasaReservoirChronicle'', Syaoran uses this excuse in one of the worlds to gather information of legends. He got the idea from his father, an archeologist, who used it all the time.
* In ''VisualNovel/HigurashiWhenTheyCry'':
** Keiichi asks his mother how to go about committing the perfect murder, as he's planning to kill Satoko's abusive uncle. The answer is, "cover it up and have an alibi." You know, the ''answer that would presumably come to mind immediately.''
** Later, Rika uses a better example of this trope; asking "What would a villain's motivations be and how should the heroine fight back?", claiming that she needs help with the manga she's writing.
* Schoolwork variant: In ''Anime/{{Monster}}'', Johan [[spoiler:isolates, {{Mind Rape}}s, and ultimately kills Richard Braun]] by claiming he wants to interview him for an essay.
* Jiraiya from ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'' is always peeking on women in the hot springs in the name of research. Here, this rather perverted "research" ''really is'' for a book: Jiraiya is the author of the incredibly-popular ''Makeout Paradise'' series of erotic novels (the very same that Kakashi enjoys reading).
* In ''Manga/TokyoGhoul'', Sen Takatsuki manages to score an interview with Amon when she states that she's gathering information for her next book. Instead, she drops hints to him about [[HunterOfMonsters CCG]] being involved in a GovernmentConspiracy. In the anime, she instead interviews Shinohara and asks whether it would be possible to make a HalfHumanHybrid. Of course, in both cases, her true motives have less to do with her next novel and more to do with [[spoiler: screwing with them, since she's really the BigBad and looking to plant the seeds of future plans]].

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* Creator/DCComics GoldenAge superhero Tarantula got into the superhero business mostly for writing a book about the exploits of "mystery men". In ''ComicBook/TheGoldenAge'', once his book became successful, he found it very difficult to follow it up with something else.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* In ''Fanfic/{{Intercom}}'', Riley accidentally lets her knowledge of the Mind World slip, but covers it up by saying it's a school project on psychology she's working on.
* ''FanFic/ProjectSunflower'' (a ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'' fanfic): When Twilight tries to find out how Sunflower could have been separated from the magic field, she talks to her magical biology professor, claiming to be writing a book.
* In ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12562072/22/Harry-Potter-and-the-Daft-Morons Harry Potter and the Daft Morons]]'' Harry needs information on certain Muggle items and manages to convince one over-suspicious PR employee that he's writing a book on the history of the item in question.
* In ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12857714/3/Adrift-in-a-World Adrift in a World]]'' Harry ends up in an alternate dimension and asks the ''Daily Prophet'' receptionist for back issues, claiming that he's writing a book on the history of Dark wizards.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* In ''WesternAnimation/MonstersInc'', Sully and Mike are hiding a human child from their fellow employees. When the employees overhear a heated discussion between Sully and Mike about the kid, they explain that they're writing a "company play". Oddly, they end up actually writing that play, and the play is performed at a company function during the movie's closing credits.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
* In ''Film/ForYourEyesOnly'', Film/JamesBond claims he's writing a novel about smugglers.
* Part of the plot of ''Film/BasicInstinct'' is that author/suspect Catherine Tramell wrote a book with a murder that matched a real one with chilling accuracy; a second murder then occurs that matches one from a second Tramell book.
* Subverted in Kevin Smith's ''Film/{{Mallrats}}'', where there is a high-school aged character who has sex with older men (and films it) for a book she is writing. The book is actually published, and becomes a best seller.
* In ''Film/HollywoodHomicide'', we briefly see the acting equivalent; a plummy actor (played by Eric Idle) is marched through a police station vehemently insisting that he ''wasn't'' soliciting a prostitute, but was doing research for a role. He then briefly says hi to Tina, a lady of the night he presumably has some acquaintance with.
* Played straight in ''Film/HowToMurderYourWife'', where Jack Lemmon's character is accused of killing his missing wife after people who've sold him gadgets for the comic-strip murder go to the police, who then find the photographs he used to create the strip.
* In TheMovie of ''Theatre/OnTheTown'', Claire kissing Ozzie claims "it's for research". Hildy says, "Dr. Kinsey, I presume?"
* Used by the main character in ''Film/CatchMeIfYouCan'', who approaches an airline executive on the pretense of writing a report for school, and in the course of the conversation learns enough pilot jargon to bluff his way through a conversation with actual pilots when riding along in the jump seat.
* In ''Film/LettersToJuliet'', Sophie asks if she can tag along to write an article.
* In ''Film/{{Militia}}'', a MadeForTV movie starring Creator/DeanCain, a radical racist group plans to launch a nuclear missile at a city where the President is going to be giving a speech. To this end, they send a few men to a nearby silo, watched over by an old soldier, to scout out the defenses. When questioned, they claim to be filming a movie about a military base and want to use realistic props.
* Gandalf in ''Film/TheHobbit'' gives a variation of this as his initial explanation for why they needed the map to be translated by Elrond.

* In P.D. James's ''Literature/OriginalSin'', the villain finds out on whom he needs to take revenge for things that happened decades ago, by pretending he's doing research for a novel called ''Original Sin''.
* In the Creator/StephenKing short story [[Literature/NightmaresAndDreamscapes "Dolan's Cadillac"]], Robinson claims that he's writing a SciFi story and asks someone how much dirt the characters would have to excavate in order to trap the alien's vehicle. The person who gives Robinson this information comments something to the effect of "It's funny, the dimensions of that vehicle are almost exactly the same as a Cadillac."
** King himself had to ask his brother how he'd go about burying a Cadillac, and got extensive details (even down to how to hotwire a digger). Of course, King had spent years preparing the alibi of being a best-selling writer by this point. He also claimed (in the author's notes of ''Nightmares & Dreamscapes'', in which this story appears) that details of the crime were changed in the story so that it [[AndSomeOtherStuff wouldn't actually work]], just in case anyone reading it got ideas.
* Literature/LordPeterWimsey:
** The novel ''Strong Poison'' uses the inverted version: Harriet really is writing a murder mystery, and purchases arsenic to see how hard she should make it for her poisoner to get some. Then her ex-lover turns up dead of arsenic poisoning, for completely unrelated reasons, so naturally she's WronglyAccused of killing him.
** Before that, in the earlier novel ''Unnatural Death'', Lord Peter Wimsey bugs his friend, Home Office pathologist Sir James Lubbock, for the name of a PerfectPoison.
* In the novel ''Literature/{{Wilt}}'', by Creator/TomSharpe, Wilt claims he was researching murder methods which led up to people believing he murdered his wife.
* In Creator/TerryPratchett's ''Literature/JohnnyMaxwellTrilogy'', Johnny observes that it's amazing what grown-ups will let you do if you tell them that you're doing a project.
-->If Saddam Hussein had said he was doing a project on Kuwait, the Gulf War would never have happened.
* This trope even shows up in ''Literature/TheLordOfTheRings''. When Frodo and his companions arrive at the inn in Bree, they realize they're going to need a plausible explanation for their wandering out of the Shire -- so Frodo claims to be a historian who's thinking of writing a book about the relationship between the Shire and Bree. Two volumes later, as they're returning home through Bree, Frodo is asked if he's written his book yet. He says he's still getting his notes in order. He wasn't completely lying - like [[Literature/TheHobbit Bilbo before him]], Frodo [[LiteraryAgentHypothesis recorded the story of the characters]] in the Red Book, which was then passed down through generations of hobbits.
* ''Literature/{{Animorphs}}'':
** In a book (#6, ''The Capture''), the Animorphs are attempting to prevent the Yeerks from taking a politician when he has surgery at a hospital they control. To find out when he'll be there, Marco calls his office and gets his schedule by claiming to be from the press.
** This kind of thing happened in real life, when writing the books, too (mostly by ghostwriters). Laura Battyanyi-Weiss had to look up limited information on Giant Squids when writing #27 ''The Exposed''.
** Lisa Harkrader, for book #44 ''The Unexpected'', had to research planes, amputation, non-returning (hunting) boomerangs, and Aboriginal life. For the airplane research, she talked to a retired TWA mechanic "to find out how Cassie could get from the cargo hold to the passenger area of a jet." In #51 ''The Absolute'', Lisa also had trouble researching tanks (how to steal and board them), arousing suspicion (and getting nowhere) when she called the army. Eventually a retired Army tank commander named Art Alphin provided Lisa with the info she needed and read over details in the book for accuracy.
** In book 29, ''The Sickness'', Cassie knows that someone must perform brain surgery on Ax (an alien) to remove his ''Tria'' gland. She runs inside her house and tells her veterinarian mom that she's doing a school report on animal brain surgery. "Any books you think might help?"
* Jo actually does research poisons for her horror stories in ''Literature/LittleWomen'', and it's mentioned that she makes librarians suspicious.
* Creator/AgathaChristie:
** ''Literature/FiveLittlePigs'', Literature/HerculePoirot is asked to reinvestigate a murder that had happened sixteen years earlier. When speaking with some of the witnesses, he claims he is writing a book about famous murders in order to get them to provide written accounts of what they remember.
** In ''Literature/ThirdGirl'', author surrogate Ariadne Oliver claims to be researching how easy it is to follow someone, when following a suspect on behalf of Poirot. She tells the suspect she's concluded it's quite difficult.
* ''Literature/HarryPotter'':
** Then there's ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheHalfBloodPrince'', in which Tom Riddle (young Lord Voldemort) [[spoiler: learns about Horcruxes from a teacher this way]].
** Of course, it's pretty clear that [[spoiler: Slughorn knows on some level that Riddle's story is complete bull: asking for info on Horcruxes for "a project" would be akin to a 6th grader asking for information about anal broomstick rape "for homework"... but he plays along anyway because he doesn't want to think badly of or disappoint his star pupil]].
** And several books earlier, in ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets'', Hermione pulled the same trick to get [[TheDitz Professor Lockhart's]] permission to get the book with the directions on how to make Polyjuice Potion from the Restricted Section.
*** Ron points out how pointless it was considering Lockhart didn't even read what they were looking for.
* Inverted in one of the stories in Ken Hornsby's autobiography ''Is That The Library Speaking?'': the librarians become suspicious of a man who takes out books on poisons and legal defence, but it eventually turns out he's a mystery fiction author.
* In the book ''Literature/{{Aquila}}'', the main characters told an archaeologist they were talking to someone in Latin online so they could get help with translating the interface on their spaceship. Later on, when they were trying to figure out how much water was needed to fully refuel the ship, one of them got his dad to do the maths for them, claiming it was for school. Also, one of them keeps the scrapbook on the ship by claiming it for something they're writing. Eventually one of the boys' parents finds the log of everything they have been doing and while the boys think they have been caught out, everybody just thinks that it ''is'' a book and bring the trope back to basics.
* In ''Literature/{{Lolita}}'' when Mrs. Haze is staying with Humbert Humbert and discovers his diary, he claims that it is actually a fictional account, and he was merely using their names for the characters. She doesn't buy it, but "fortunately" she gets [[LookBothWays hit by a truck]] before she can act on her discovery.
* This is toyed with in the [[ExtrudedBookProduct Gold Eagle]] series ''Track''. The main character, Dan Track, is a consultant to action writers on getting guns right and writing convincing combat. He is good at this because he owns a lot of guns and slaughters about a hundred guys per book (in justified shootouts, naturally).
* There's a ''Literature/NancyDrew'' book where a crook is using this as cover for casing peoples' houses.
* In the ''Literature/AuntDimity'' books, Lori sometimes uses this excuse as an excuse to question people:
** In ''Aunt Dimity Digs In'', a pamphlet is stolen from the vicarage, and TheVicar and his wife are deeply distressed by the theft. Hoping they may have seen something, Lori questions the owners of the neighbouring cottages by claiming to be doing research for Lilian Bunting's book on the village's history.
** When Lori and Bree visit a series of large estates in ''Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince'', they pose as journalists to interview the homeowners. Bree subsequently writes a couple of actual articles and shops them around to make amends for harbouring suspicions about them.
* Elizabeth's weekend meetings with Jennifer for witchcraft training in ''JenniferHecateMacbethWilliamMcKinleyAndMeElizabeth'' is passed off to her family as a semester-long school project.
* PlayedForDrama in the second Literature/DresdenFiles book, ''Literature/FoolMoon''. One of Harry's friends, a low-level practitioner, comes to him with a few idle questions about a ritual that he knows is designed to contain creatures that are both mortal ''and'' spirit -- in other words, extremely dangerous beings that [[EvilIsNotAToy she has no business trafficking in]]. Naturally, he doesn't answer and tries to deflect her away from the question. However, [[spoiler:she needs the ritual to help contain one of the villains of the book, a powerful werewolf. When she tries to use the ritual anyway, it doesn't work and she ends up dead.]]
* The acknowledgements page of ''Literature/ToBeOrNotToBeThatIsTheAdventure'' has Creator/RyanNorth thanking Metafilter for giving him advice on how to dispose of a dead body, and then also thanking the Canadian Security Intelligence Service for not getting him in trouble for making searches like 'gross dead body +how to hide it' and 'what if I committed the murder act, how do I ditch the body & not go to jail IT'S AN EMERGENCY??'
* ''Literature/FamilySkeletonMysteries'': In book 1, Georgia calls a former student of Joshua Tay University to ask for information about Allen Reece, another former student, under the pretense that it's for a journalism class assignment. [[spoiler: The information she gets confirms what she suspected: Sid ''is'' Allen.]]
* ''Literature/VillainsByNecessity'': After suffering through intense ClothingDamage throughout the adventure, Sam is forced to have his Assassin's Guild uniform mended by a tailor. When the conspicuously villainous outfit naturally attracts questions, he claims it's a costume for a play (specifically this world's version of Hamlet).

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
* On ''Series/{{Friends}}'', Chandler leaves Ross's baby on the bus, and has to call the Transportation Department to get it back. Rather than admit he left the baby behind, however, he tells the operator it's for his book. "Yes, [[RepeatingSoTheAudienceCanHear that would be a stupid character.]]"
* On ''Series/{{Journeyman}}'', Dan calls a physics professor to ask about TimeTravel, saying it's for a book he's writing. The professor obviously knew more about Dan's predicament than he was letting on but the series was canceled before it was revealed.
* On ''Series/{{Bruiser}}'', there was a running-gag sketch where a rather high-strung man (played by Robert Webb) came into shops asking less-than-innocent questions about [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEyUeCyXl1Q what sort of, say, poisons you'd have, for rats, a large rat, a woman-sized rat, say....]]
* Simon used "It's for a school paper" to get information on baby safe haven laws on ''Series/SeventhHeaven'' (which didn't fool anyone).
* One episode of ''Series/BostonLegal'' had a woman ask for details in how to commit a crime, then added the phrase "for a book" after Alan Shore said he'd have to call the cops.
* ''Series/VeronicaMars''
** Veronica used "it's an assignment for health class" (or some variant thereof) to cover all kinds of activities, including collecting a DNA sample from her dad. Somewhat justified in that she's a good actress and usually plans out her requests beforehand instead of making them up on the spot.
** The series actually ''inverts'' it in the third season. The final assignment from Veronica's former FBI agent criminology professor? A paper on how you'd commit the perfect murder. When the Dean ends up dead in a manner that copies elements from Veronica's paper, she is seriously wigged.
* One episode of the show ''Cheaters'' featured a man who used this excuse after being caught with a hooker.
* ''Series/{{Merlin|2008}}'':
** The title character once claimed that he needed a book for "homework"... and appears to be believed, despite this being both illogical and anachronistic ([[RuleOfFunny though also rather amusing]]).
** It's {{inverted}} in a later episode, after Merlin gives Arthur some startlingly good advice, and on being asked how he's so knowledgeable, tells him "I read a book."
* In the ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' episode "Earshot", the Scooby Gang pretend to interview teachers and students for the yearbook at Sunnydale High to find out the identity of a potential gunman. "Hi, Mr. Beach. I was just wondering if you were planning on killing a bunch of people tomorrow? Oh, it's for the yearbook."
** And the profiles turn out so interesting that they end up ''actually'' being used in the yearbook.
** And they also claim to be in the school "archaeology club" to explain their sudden interest in Incan mummies to someone that they assume is a muggle. ([[spoiler: Turns out she's the mummy.]])
** "Rehearsing a play" tends to be used if a Muggle catches the Buffy heroes talking about demons and monsters.
* This is pretty much the premise of ''Series/{{Castle}}''. The title character, a best-selling mystery writer is -- ostensibly -- tagging along with detective Kate Beckett in order to do research for his new series of crime novels, ''Nikki Heat''.
** In one episode, Castle tells a thief he wants the details of a break-in in order to get the details right in his book. He really wanted the information the thief had in order to catch a murderer, and pretending it was for a book got the thief to open up.
** Also inverted when a method actress hired to play the Beckett CaptainErsatz Nikki Heat not only dresses and acts like Beckett (to the annoyance of the latter and the joy of Castle seeing ''two'' Becketts), but also tries to sleep with Castle in order to properly play the romance between Nikki and Rook (Castle's AuthorAvatar). She even goes so far as to ask Beckett for help in seducing him.
** Toward the end of Season 3, Castle's mother points out he has more than enough material for several books; [[{{UST}} he's clearly not doing it for professional reasons anymore]]. To be honest, he was never really in the first place -- which falls squarely under this trope: it was a convenient excuse.
* ''Series/OdysseyFive''. The protagonists consult a cantankerous sci-fi writer (an obvious Creator/HarlanEllison-expy) on the events of the series, claiming it's for a sci-fi novel. In a CrowningMomentOfFunny, he criticizes the numerous scientific errors in statements clearly based on internet fan criticism of the pilot episode.
* Done well in ''Series/HomeAndAway'': Belle is kidnapped by Dom, an unstable stalker who thinks she's in love with him. After her boyfriend Drew rescues her, he ends up running Dom over while trying to escape. Weeks later, Dom is in hospital from an infection he received because he didn't get treatment for his injury. Drew panics at the possibility that Dom could press charges, and has his friend Lucas, a writer, consult Morag, a former judge, for legal advice. Lucas gives her the scenario, under the guise of writing a book -- "''Film/WolfCreek'' meets ''Literature/PubertyBlues''", -- and relays the information to Drew. There is no indication that Morag knows the truth.
* Referenced in ''Series/PeepShow'', when Jeremy is attending an interview for a cleaning job and tries to secure the position by claiming to find cleaning out plug-holes "interesting" (he desperately wants the job so he can stalk his ex-girlfriend). The interviewer seems baffled as to why ''anyone'' would seem so enthusiastic about cleaning, and asks if Jeremy is researching for a novel or something. Not wanting to seem over-qualified, Jeremy replies: "What's a novel?"
* Used by the villains in the episode "Dirty Bomb" of ''{{Series/Numb3rs}}''. They contacted a researcher for a nuclear company for information about a particular radioactive isotope, claiming it was for a moviescript. The show takes place in LA, so the researcher didn't really give it much thought until she saw an internal DOE alert about three caskets of the stuff stolen to make a dirty bomb. Her cooperation was a key component in finding the identities of the criminals.
* Face and Triple A used this tactic to obtain some ridiculous props (such as a small airplane) and funding from the Mexican Film Bureau in an episode of ''Series/TheATeam''.
* ''Series/SaturdayNightLive'' has this gem from fictional presidential candidate Tim Calhoun: "I have touched many pages in my life... because I am a voracious reader... of child pornography... studies. Illustrated studies."
* Jessica Fletcher will sometimes use this trope, or let people think she's using it, to get closer to murder investigations in ''Series/MurderSheWrote''.
* On ''Series/MrAndMrsMurder'' Charlie and Nicola pass off their interest in the dose at which ketamine becomes fatal as being for a book.
* On ''Series/MythQuest'', Alex and Cleo use "it's for a school project" excuse anytime they need information about a myth from someone who isn't in on their secret.
* On ''Series/ThirtyRock'', Liz Lemon allows someone to use her personal computer, adding "Okay, but if you look at my internet history, I’m researching a movie about two male centaurs kissing."
* On an episode of ''Series/WorldsWorstTenants'', a landlord was caught peeping through spy cameras he'd installed in female tenants' bathrooms. When he was busted for it on camera, he claimed (out of desperation) that it was this trope. Unsurprisingly, nobody fell for it.
* In ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', Dean and Sam have sometimes gotten information by pretending to be journalists, though have stopped doing it in favor just [[ImpersonatingAnOfficer pretending to be FBI agents]].
* In ''Series/{{The Sentinel}}'', Blair is supposedly following Jim around because he's doing a dissertation on the applications of social anthropology to police work.
* In ''Series/OpenHeart'', Dylan walks in on her father frantically searching through newspaper clippings and “looking for patterns". He claims it’s for his novel.
* In ''Series/BreakingBad'', when Skyler thinks that Walt is smoking pot, she asks Marie about how could it affect someone, claiming that it's for a short story she's writing. Marie doesn't fall for it, but she thinks it's Walt Jr. who is smoking pot.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* It's been commented that the internet search history for any good, detail-oriented GameMaster, especially ones running games like TabletopGame/{{Shadowrun}} or ''TabletopGame/TheWorldOfDarkness'', should instantly land said GameMasters on government watch lists.
** That was actually parodied in a late 2011 issue of ''ComicStrip/KnightsOfTheDinnerTable'' when the main group is running a ''TabletopGame/CallOfCthulhu'' game with themselves in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Lampshaded when the Homeland Security agent in charge of that night's shift recognizes the IP address as coming from gamer-heavy Muncie, Indiana and calls off the team.

* In an OlderThanSteam case of JustForFun/TheZerothLawOfTropeExamples, this trope shows up in Shakespeare's ''Theatre/{{Cymbeline}}''. The ObviouslyEvil [[GodSaveUsFromTheQueen Queen]] asks the court physician, Cornelius, to brew for her an extremely deadly and painful poison. When he questions why she would want something like that, she offers the excuse that she plans to test it on animals and create an antidote based on treating its effects. Since Cornelius is not an idiot, he doesn't actually create the requested poison but instead gives her a compound that will cause the victim to have initial discomfort and fall into a death-like sleep but wake up healthy.

[[folder:Video Games]]
* Used by Dahlia Hawthorne in ''VisualNovel/PhoenixWrightAceAttorneyTrialsAndTribulations''. When asked what a literature student was doing in the basement of a courthouse she responds that she was doing a research in a paper she was writing. [[spoiler: Actually she was there being questioned by an attorney on suspicion of a murder, and she used the opportunity to poison him]].
* In ''VideoGame/{{Scratches}}'', the protagonist tries to get information about the mystery he is investigating by calling the retired police officer responsible for the case and pretending to be a reporter writing about famous murder cases.
* In ''VideoGame/{{Fahrenheit}}'', Lucas claims to be a reporter writing a story about [[spoiler:Mayan antiques and their relation to ritual sacrifice]] to get information out of a visiting expert. It's seen through almost instantly, though.
* In ''VideoGame/TheDarksideDetective'', [=McQueen=] has watched the movie ''Film/{{Ghost|1990}}'' a ''lot'', which he insists was research for professional reasons.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* ''WebVideo/MarbleHornets'' season 2: When a passerby at the hotel Jay woke up in asks why he has a camera strapped to his body, he explains that he's shooting a documentary...about hotels. [[spoiler:Turns out later she didn't really believe him.]]
* ''Roleplay/BehindTheVeil'' has an interesting version combined with a cover up; to hide the fact that a wererat was seen bursting through several university walls and the side of a trailer (not to mention running over any student in the way), the Technocracy ended up creating an elaborate cover up to pass it off as a marketing stunt gone wrong for an upcoming film. Then again the story was boosted with magic specifically to kill the idea that it was an actual wererat.
* ''Website/NotAlwaysRight'' [[http://notalwaysright.com/murder-she-wrote/6829 has a story]] about a woman calling a gas station and asking if the person answering the call knows about guns, as she's writing a novel about them.
* ''WebAnimation/{{RWBY}}'': Weiss manages to get a hold of some sensitive corporate documents from the Schnee Corporation by claiming that she needs them for a school project. The fact that she is, in fact, the company's heiress causes the secretary to release the documents without much fuss.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* In one episode of ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'', Stewie (using mind control) tries to use Chris to buy a "hand-operated buzzsaw capable of cutting through a human sternum". The store clerk gives him a funny look and Stewie makes Chris say, "It's for a...school project! I need it for...blast, what the devil do these kids study...Latin class!"
* ''WesternAnimation/TheSimpsons'': In "Milhouse of Sand and Fog", Homer has painted a face on his belly and shoves a pizza slice into the "mouth". When Homer notices Bart witnessing this, he claims "I'm doing this for work."

[[folder:Real Life]]
* A typical {{handwave}} for aspiring graffiti artists at a hardware store is "It's for a school art project"/"We're renovating".
* Some people have noted that you can get away with anything on the [=LiveJournal community=] ''little_details'' by prefacing your query with: "I'm writing a story where..."
** The same goes for the Plot Realism Forum on Nanowrimo's website. Here someone asked how many bottles a blended five year old would fill. [[http://replay.web.archive.org/20090208114447/http://nanowrimo.org/eng/node/3140914 Wayback Machine archive.]] There was some disagreement on just how much a 5-year old would weigh and whether the child should be cooked first, but most said somewhere between 20 and 40 liters. The closest thing to an expert (someone who tried it with a duck) thought that a fifty-pound child would take ten quarts.
** Another thread had someone asking how much jello it would take to fill up the White House. It quickly devolved into a discussion of which flavor would be best.
** The trope is often referenced in the [[http://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/ Worldbuilding Stack Exchange site]], where authors and creators ask this kind of questions. Questions like "Where in Europe can I detonate 100 kt (non-nuclear) not to harm anyone?" [[http://worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/12536/where-in-europe-can-i-detonate-100-kt-non-nuclear-not-to-harm-anyone]] get comments like "You're so getting flagged by your ISP for posting this. Seems like you're onto a good story though".
** There was also, famously, another discussion on how many koalas it would take to fill a Tokyo subway car. That one got revamped a couple of years running and was more for fun than for real. There was, however, quite a bit of serious discussion about whether the koalas were flattened, crated, alive, dead, and male or female, and if the subway car had seats in it or not. If female, an interesting tangent developed about whether or not they were pregnant, since pregnant koalas are more likely to need their personal space, and what might happen if one (or all) of said pregnant koalas gave birth on the train. The answer was something like 1500 koalas, based on the volume of the car and the average volume of a koala.
* Also used by people posing as journalists in many media to get information. "I'm working on an article..."
* David Hahn, the "[[http://www.dangerouslaboratories.org/radscout.html radioactive boy scout]]", used this excuse to pick up large amounts of information, which he used to create a ''nuclear reactor''. Of course, he was doing it because he enjoyed his nuclear merit badge project so much.
* One careless murderer left all his murder plans on a floppy disk, which was confiscated by investigators. Given how closely the details he'd written matched the actual murder, the "it's for a book!" defense fell flat.
* According to legend, in the early 1950s Japanese police arrested two men who were in a restaurant discussing how to destroy Tokyo. They were the director and producer of what would become the original ''[[Film/{{Gojira}} Gojira]]'' movie. The commentary track on the ''Gojira'' DVD says that the police showed up when some of the production team were up on top of a building in downtown Tokyo, discussing which of the other buildings in sight they wanted to "destroy". No one actually got arrested.
* Crime author Ian Rankin once returned from an isolated cottage in the Scottish hills and requested to speak to a Police Officer about several 'plot points' for his story. Questions such as: police procedure in child abduction/murder cases, sentence lengths, etc. Unbeknownst to him a young girl had been kidnapped and murdered earlier that week -- and here was a quite scruffy man 'researching' about a very similar topic. Unsurprisingly, he was questioned.
* Author [[Literature/{{Animorphs}} K.]] [[Literature/{{Everworld}} A.]] [[Literature/{{Remnants}} Applegate]] got very annoyed answers from the military because of questions she asked about the build of tanks, airplanes, and an aircraft carrier.
* There was a Nick game show at one point that required kids to go to various public places and (with the aid of a hidden camera) get people to do various ridiculous actions (eat bugs, wear silly hats, etc.) The usual explanation was something like "We're doing a school project".
* When Winona Ryder was busted for shoplifting, she claimed she was just doing research for a role. No one bought it for a second.
* After being caught accessing child pornography, British comic Chris Langham claimed it was in preparation for a role. He was convicted and sentenced to ten months imprisonment (later reduced to six) at trial, and the appeal judge remarked that his explanation was "highly improbable".
* Similarly, Pete Townshend of Music/TheWho claimed he was doing research for a book after being caught accessing a site which provided links to child pornography (although he apparently cancelled his access immediately afterwards, and thus never downloaded any actual porn). The main problem was that it was a pay site, and he'd used his credit card to access it. The officials basically said "It's not a question of whether he was doing this for a book or not, so much that he gave these people money."
* A surprising number of men on ''Series/{{Dateline}}: To Catch A Predator'' have claimed that their intention was not to have sex with the girl or boy, but to teach them about the dangers of talking to strangers online, or that they walked into a stranger's house in the middle of the night to research the housing market. Of course, their story is Swiss cheese once the host reveals he has a copy of the chat logs and that is definitely not what the suspect talked about.
* In his book ''Shark Life'', Creator/PeterBenchley notes he once asked his father which end of a shark would float were it cut in half.
-->"What're you up to?"\\
[[Film/{{Jaws}} "Trying to tell a story about a shark."]]\\
"That's some shark."
* On the commentary track for ''Film/SawI'', Leigh Whannell mentions how, early in the scriptwriting, he asked a doctor which drug was best to use if you wanted a person to be unable to move, but still be conscious and able to feel pain.
--> "He was suspicious."
* The customer in [[http://notalwaysright.com/murder-she-wrote/6829 this]] ''Website/NotAlwaysRight'' entry is probably on the level. It would be far weirder if she wasn't.
* John Rogers, showrunner and co-creator of ''Series/{{Leverage}}'', recently wrote in a [[http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2010/11/leverage-309-three-card-monte-job-post.html post-game of an episode]]:
-->For all you Spec-Monkeys out there: ''never be afraid to call someone''. A very nice lady from the Boston PD Public Relations Department spent a good hour with us on the phone explaining how evidence is stored and transferred in the Boston PD system[[note]]To wit, this information isn't confidential to begin with; lawyers ask "chain of custody" questions as a matter of course during criminal trials, which means that evidence storage and transfer procedures are matters of public record.[[/note]]...Then, we got some vague answers from bank-alarm companies about the protocols for bank alarms and how police deal with them...by cross-referencing the answers we got from the companies to fill in the blanks, we got a very good sense of how these things go down. At which point Boylan and I, who were the ones working on the script (the rest of the room had moved on to #310), realized ''we should totally go rob a bank''.
* Creator/JimButcher, author of ''Literature/TheDresdenFiles'', once asked an aquarium worker what would happen if [[DestructiveSavior someone]] were to break the glass of one of the exhibits. He later reported that he caused this worker (and others) a great deal of distress with this question.
* Creator/TomClancy:
** When writing books about warfare and nuclear subs and such, Clancy often asked for info. He was once stunned when he was sent piles of information and parts bordering on classified, expecting instead to be brushed off. He even mentions, in the afterword for ''Literature/TheSumOfAllFears'', being able to get manuals for the equipment used by the US government for manufacturing nuclear weapons, just by writing requests.
** When ''Literature/TheHuntForRedOctober'' was published, he was asked who had given him classified information. The subsequent investigation revealed that a lot of the "classified technology" was primarily extrapolation from non-classified sources that was, for the government, uncomfortably close to accurate.[[note]]It's worth noting that it's entirely possible that the aggregated information he had received might have technically been classified as a whole. Unclassified information in sufficient quantities, and the right kind, can be aggregated into something that is sensitive or classified, for precisely this reason: A clever individual or organization, given enough unclassified information, can extrapolate some very dangerous information.[[/note]]
** In the writer's commentary on ''Film/TheSumOfAllFears'', Clancy describes how he was allowed by the air force to see a Stealth bomber, but not to touch it, since "Maybe they were afraid I could tell how the stealth worked by feeling it?" [[note]]The real reason is more mundane: The skin is very fragile, where a wrong touch can damage the very expensive material and negatively impact the radar signature of the aircraft.[[/note]]
* On a similar note Creator/StanleyKubrick was briefly investigated by the Air Force for the depiction of the interior of a B-52 bomber in ''Film/DrStrangelove'', paying special concern to the cockpit. When asked how he got such an accurate set, Kubrick replied that the crew looked at photos of a B-29's interior and scaled them up.
* Creator/CassandraClare [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jK8y8borPZ8 has had an opportunity to do this]].
* The reference desk on Wiki/TheOtherWiki sees "it's for a book"-type questions from time to time. Some are more believable than others.
* [[http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=66 This]] research web forum for writers.
* Interesting fact: If you knock on someone's front door, are/pretend to be an architecture student, and say that you just happened to be passing by and thought their house looked interesting and could you perhaps come inside and look around/take some pictures for a school project, then chances are the people who live there will actually let you inside their house even though you are a complete stranger.
* A question that comes up frequently in real-life Masters of Library Science exams is the question of whether or not you assist a patron that's looking for information on something questionable (like forensics), or illegal (building bombs).
* In 1990, the US Secret Service [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Jackson_Games,_Inc._v._United_States_Secret_Service raided the Austin offices of Steve Jackson Games]] as part of a crackdown on computer hackers, one of whom was writing a cyberpunk supplement for an SJG role-playing game. The company sued the Secret Service and won $50,000 in damages and $250,000 in costs.
* In 2005, John Stanley explained to a judge that he had robbed a bank [[http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2005/mar/03/robber_to_use/ to research the criminal mind]]. Funny thing is, he wasn't lying. He'd been in and out of prison for various crimes since the 1960s, plus got nine more years for the latest robbery. At the same time, he was a successful consultant, author, and presenter on criminal topics. Apparently being incarcerated gives him time to work.
* J. Eifie Nichols, author of ''Literature/TheRadiantDawn'', sent an email to Northrop-Grumman, the manufacturer of the Nimitz class carrier, inquiring about the diameter of the hangar lift cables for the hangar lifts to the flight deck. The answer from Northrop-Grumman? "That's classified."