What Does It Take to Research True Crime?

Tina Morlock
7 min readFeb 15, 2022

An Amateur’s Observations of the Research Tactics True Crime Writers Use: 5 True Crime Research Sources

Yellow crime scene tape in the corner. Child dressed like a detective, holding a magnifying glass. Main title in yellow: What does it take to research true crime cases? Subtitle: 5 True Crime Research Sources
Photo credit: Canva Images

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I am not a true crime writer; actually, I’m quite far from it. However, it’s been a dream of mine for a long time to become involved with true crime in some writerly aspect. This has been going on for years, but nothing lit a fire under my ass more than watching I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. It was an incredibly haunting view of what true crime writers go through when they obsess over a case they’re working with. For some reason, the Golden State Killer’s story never felt gripping to me—not until I learned about Michelle McNamara.

He was the Ted Bundy of our generation in a way, though there was nothing charming at all about watching a murderer pretend to be old and senile just so he wouldn’t get in trouble. He’d been doing it his entire life, so why would his arrest be any different? It seems so strange that reality has passed by them in a million different ways, and they just don’t see it.

But I digress. (My note as an editor: a clear sign I’ve gone off the beaten path, but I’m not writing a book, so I’m not all that concerned.)

Here’s my point. I’ve grown to be a huge true crime fan over the past several years, but it’s gotten worse—or better, depending on how you look at it—in the past few years. I seem to be running out the notion of it just being informative or entertaining somehow, and now it’s moved into a whole other box. Now, I feel like there’s some sort of purpose with this form of writing, and I’ve felt the call to dive right into it.

I’ve made a lot of mental notes over the years as someone with a certain amount of interest in all types of true crime. So, I thought I’d take an opportunity to share my insights into what [I think] it takes to be a true crime writer—but more specifically, where they do all their research.

1—All good searches start with Google.

I think there’s more to it than that, though.

The real foundation behind this basic research tactic is finding that one case that won’t let go of…

Tina Morlock

I am a freelance fiction editor and writer. I write about fiction. :)