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Shown Their Work
aka: Did The Research

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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 Dan Browned. 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 Doing It for the Art, Narrative Filigree (both also about going above and beyond in regards to production quality), Lampshaded the Obscure Reference, Reality Ensues, 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.

Compare Truth in Television, if the certain element shown in the work is ubiquitous. Contrast Critical Research Failure and Dan Browned. 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


Incredibles: Radio Speak

Elastigirl's radio speak when she's being targeted by Syndrome's missiles is very realistic.
Transmitting in the Blind Guard: Call on emergency frequency
Angels 10: Altitude Call: 10,000 feet
Track East: Direction of Travel: east
Buddy Spiked: A mayday in US Air Force code, not to fire

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ShownTheirWork

Media sources:

Main / ShownTheirWork