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Shown Their Work

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"A writer cannot do too much research...though sometimes it is a mistake to try and cram too much of what you learned into your novel. Research gives you a foundation to build on, but in the end it's only the story that matters."

Although many talents in fictional media show they didn't do their research, some actually did. In fact, sometimes they learned so much and worked so hard to learn it that it would hardly seem fitting to just not show it off. They may also very well have Cast the Expert.

The Shown Their Work trope comes in when the creators tweak their stories to show the viewer/reader what they have learned. The trick is to do it so this advances the story instead of stopping it cold. When it's done right in a well-made work, awards for its educational value can be just as nifty as the artistic awards.

This often happens in older, harder Sci Fi books, wherein the authors try to keep the science as consistent as possible with currently-understood scientific theories. Of course, since Science Marches On, this may date the book badly.

More often than not, the stuff authors look into won't be things with which the average Joe is familiar. If it's something particularly unrealistic, the audience might just write it off as typical fiction, even though it actually is a thing.

When an author claims to have done the research but definitely hasn't, that's Falsely Advertised Accuracy. Any examples of that list are there; here, the claim is proven correct.

Note that this does not include explicitly educational productions, since they obviously have to be both accurate and explanatory to be effective.

Compare Narrative Filigree (which is also about going above and beyond in regards to production quality), Lampshaded the Obscure Reference, Surprisingly Realistic Outcome, Write What You Know (when a work showcases a lot of in-depth information as a result of the creator having prior knowledge of the subject as opposed to needing to research it) and any Artistic License.

Note that this is only as good as the writer makes it. Just because you did the research, doesn't mean it adds to the story, especially if the research is shoehorned in just to show off. Likewise, sometimes it's better just to make things up. Remember that one of the reasons why the Sci Fi Ghetto existed in the first place was because authors of old (and some even now) overused this trope, creating walls of Info Dump instead of stories. If people wanted to have a lecture in science, they would grab scientific essays in the first place.

Also keep in mind that referencing things doesn't by default make a work smarter than one that doesn't.

Try to keep this page from becoming Gushing About Shows You Like.

There's a LiveJournal community for authors conducting such research on non-trivial topics.

If the work is simply using real locations as backgrounds, consider using Real-Place Background. If the work contains both real backgrounds and other research, then by all means include it here as well. If the work relies on the help of someone with knowledge about a certain element to correctly portray it, see Technical Advisor.

Compare Truth in Television, if the certain element shown in the work is ubiquitous. Contrast Falsely Advertised Accuracy. If it turns out that the author wasn't aware about the subject and happened to get it right by chance, then it's Accidentally Correct Writing.

Examples subpages:


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Did Do The Research, Did The Research


Silly Alaskan Laws

The Tobins explain some of the crazy laws they have in Alaska (which are actually real laws in real life). When Beef purposely breaks one of those laws to get thrown in jail, the rest of his family do the same to celebrate his birthday with him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / LoonyLaws

Media sources: