7 Simple Tips To Organise Your Writing Research

7 Simple Tips To Organise Your Research


As a writer, research is a vital part of putting together your novel or your non-fiction book.

While we usually keep our manuscript in a document file, sometimes our research can become a bit chaotic and all over the place and, when we’re looking for something important, we can’t find it.

It’s a good idea to have your facts at your fingertips.

7 Simple Tips To Organise Your Research

▌1. Notebooks: If you’re writing down research notes in a notebook after a visit to a museum or after interviewing a subject matter expert, try to keep these notebooks the same size and keep them in chronological order. Label them by date or subject matter.

▌2. Magazines or journals: If you don’t want the clutter of magazines, you can cut out the relevant articles and keep these in a concertina file. You can file them according to subject matter or the title of the journal. If you have time, you can scan in, PDF the pages, and save in a folder on your computer.

3. Books: These are fairly easy to sort, as you can keep them neatly arranged on a shelf or two. However, you can use sticky notes to separate relevant chapters. Use index cards to summarise chapters and keep these in a box; this way you won’t be tempted to re-read the books.

4. Video files: Sometimes our research isn’t always printed. You may have to keep copies of DVDs. You could also download YouTube videos or podcasts and keep these in a folder on your computer. If you find programmes on satellite TV, you could save these to the hard drive on your PVR.

7 Simple Tips To Organise Your Writing Research

5. Pictures: Visual references are a great resource for writers and we often use pictures to get a better sense of the world we’re building. Social platforms like Pinterest are great to save pictures, where you can create ‘pin boards’ for your pictures.

Keep in mind, you can also save pictures in a folder on your computer. Don’t keep them all jumbled up in your default ‘Pictures’ folder.

6. Audio files: Often you will interview subject matter experts for your story. You can use a digital recorder or even your smart phone for these interviews, and download the sound files to your computer and save in a folder.

7. Web searches: Most of us do the bulk of our research on the net, and this is where things get messy. Having some sort of system can really help. You can bookmark sites on your browser – and even create new folders by subject matter or sub categories within your Favourites.

If, like me, you like to copy and paste the text from a website into a Word document, be sure to copy the web link or URL so you can trace the source of the information.

One view of your research

Finally, if you are working on a book that requires a lot of research or needs an index or bibliography – which you will probably need if you’re writing non- fiction – then you could create a spreadsheet.

In this one central document, list all your research, with columns for publication date, author or subject matter experts, formats and so forth.

Top Tip: If you want to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Anthony Ehlers

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