Preparing for a Research Trip: Research Plans

There are a variety of ways you can construct a research plan and log. Often these are taught and discussed as two separate items. However, these can be one document that is keyword searchable if you use a computer program. Popular computer programs for creating research plans and logs are: spreadsheets (Excel or Numbers), word processors using tables (Word or Pages), and note-taking software such as Evernote, One Note, or Scrivener. Of course, this is a personal preference and you may be most comfortable with paper and pencil.

Why is a research plan/log important? 

  • To be efficient with your limited time in a repository, cemetery, or with family members.
  • To keep track of what you’ve researched so you don’t unnecessarily duplicate your work.
  • To keep any notes about your search results organized.
  • To gather citation information.

Months or years later, you can search these plans/logs for more research clues or to be sure you don’t examine the same source twice, or to know if you need to go back and search for new information (perhaps you’ve discovered a new surname since the last time you looked at a particular book or film).

Consider including the following items in your research plan/log:

  • Date
  • Repository
  • Title of item
  • Call number or film number
  • Names/Info searches
  • Search results
  • Other comments

A research plan and log should allow you to see what you’ve done, let you see where you should or shouldn’t search in the future, and is best if it is keyword searchable such as in a computerized system.

Sample research plan/log

While you are at the repository:

  • Take the time to organize your research findings.
  • If you have time/energy in the evenings, go through your papers/files and be sure they are organized.
  • Process your work as soon as possible. Enter in your database, research log, or other system.

If you wait too long to process your work, and you forget what you were doing, it’s almost as if you never went in the first place. Be sure you record and process what you find.

“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

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