Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Your Research Workbook

(Hi all - I started writing this one in May....then somehow lost track of June and half of July. Better late than never?)

When you visit the library, a courthouse, your local Family History Center, or any other research repository you take your research workbook with you, right? If you don't take it, you should. And if you don't have one it is time to create one for both your real-world offline research and your virtual research on the Internet.


A research workbook is a place for you to keep track of the work you do, the notes you take, the goals you have, and the ideas you have for future research paths to follow. It keeps you organized and helps you visualize the research puzzle you are the midst of solving. The workbook is the best way to make sure you don't duplicate research you've done in the past. It helps you to stop spinning your wheels and move forward because it gives you a direction, a plan, and a clear vision of what to do next.


If you are lucky enough to have a laptop computer your research workbook can be a virtual one that lives entirely on the computer. Be sure you make backup copies on a regular basis so that you don't lose this important research tool! If you don't have a laptop you will most likely develop two versions of your workbook: one on paper, in a binder, that goes with you on research trips, and one on your computer at home for online research. The online research pages can easily be printed and inserted into your physical binder so that all your notes are in one place when you leave home.

My research workbook has tabbed sections for each surname I'm working on. On your computer you can create folders for each surname, the folders being the "tabbed sections" in your workbook. You can also create sub-folders under the surnames for each couple or family group. Whatever make sense to you, because it all depends on where you are going in your research and how you organize yourself and your files.

Your research notes can be free-flowing text that you write or type as you work. Or your notes can be confined to pre-defined formats on charts or forms, or in software programs. Many people use the Notes field in their genealogy database program to type their notes on individuals. Some genealogy programs allow for large text entry and some have limited notes fields, so you will have to decide if this works for you or not. In the end you might find that a combination of free-flowing text, forms, or notes in genealogy software programs works best.


Whether your research notes are in pre-defined forms or free-flowing text, be sure to include these important bits as you find your ancestors in records:
  • Date you are doing the research
  • Copyright date of the material and/or "updated" date of any web site data (when the data was published)
  • Full title of source material
  • Call numbers, URLs, page numbers, etc.
  • Your comments, notes to yourself for the future, goals
  • For database or search engine searches list all the keywords and various combinations of keywords you used in the searches

I don't have the research time I used to have (gee, something else seems to occupy my time). So, my research workbook is a combination of everything I've described above. My old notebook goes with me to the library and so does my laptop. At some point I need to combine them and coordinate the old with the new. I'll be doing that in my spare time. So, what do you do for research workbooks and note-taking?



Anonymous said...

I don't use paper research logs as much as I use to. But I use an electonic document filing system (no product placement ads) in a similar way. I make an entry for every title I research and obviously under results I put NADA in large letters. I wish someone would devise an internet base doc filing system that would allows this type of recording to be portable as paper. Sometimes I just don't want to drag my laptop around with me.

Cyndi Ingle said...

Heather - I assume you might be referring to using Clooz for your filing. It is also my intent to incorporate Clooz into my research notes, but I'm so far behind on my own research...

Paper Research said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.