No matter what kind of research you are doing, you need to make clear, concise notes. I research my novels. I also do research into my family history. They are two completely different forms of research, but their notes have a couple of things in common. I date both of them. For example, any research I do today would have the date on it, 22 February 2015. I follow that with a complete citation of the reference I am checking, the URL if it is online or the publication information if it’s in a printed work. I won’t go into how to do that. Suffice to say that you can look up how to do it online or in any writing reference book. Then I make a note of what I found, giving it a meaningful name such as, “Birth of Grandfather Neil A. McTaggart” or “Details of Simulated Planet”, helps. After I write those down, I move to the actual note taking. In the case of websites, I usually do screen shots or just copy and paste. That’s the fastest and easiest way to get large amounts of text into your notes. Putting the concepts into your own words is better though. You are less likely to plagiarize the work, unconsciously, which would still be a crime.
That’s where the two processes separate. Research for a novel is mostly text. Family history research often involves images. It’s very important to get that image, whenever possible. Then you need to record why you think the subject of the record is your ancestor. You need to cite the source as well, so get that citation when you get the record. Then you need to put the information from the record into your own words. This makes it easier to read. Later, you can transcribe the record. You need to record your impressions of the source as you do the research because otherwise so you can analyze it better later. Researching your family history is a multi-part process. There’s the initial research, analysis and incorporating it. So it is very important to record everything you find when you find it. It’s also important to note when a source doesn’t have the information that you were looking for. That way you won’t search the source again, unless you have updated information that may make the information you are looking for show in the source, assuming it’s there.
Taking notes while researching a topic, whether it’s your family history or just a topic you need to look into for writing a novel or a paper, is easy as long as you remember to note the date you found the information and where you found it. It’s a good idea indicate what the notes are about as well. I give mine a title as I said before. That lets you find the note you are looking for. The date tells you when you searched that record. Good notes will help you in your research. Do it right and organizing them will be a snap.
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