What have I learned lately about research plans?

I have been reading about research plans and also asking experts about how they do research plans. I would like to share some of my discoveries.

As you know the development of a research plan is a component of the document unit of the certification process.  After you transcribe, and abstract two documents you are required to create a one page research plan based on the documents. (1)

There is a nice article in NGS Magazine on research plans. (2)

In it, the author advises us to:

  1. “Set goals
  2. Review information
  3. Establish objectives
  4. Select documents and locations
  5. Research
  6. Analyze and incorporate information
  7. Re-examine the plan”

For the purposes of the BCG Certification, we are not asked to the research (no. 5), analyze (no. 6) or re-examine the plan (no.7) but we are asked to review the document and develop a “the first steps” based on the document.  

When I asked Tom Jones and Craig Scott (on the cruise) to discuss research plans, they had a few common reactions.

1. It is important to narrow the research question to be very tight.  “Find out about Aunt Edna” is not a suitable objective or research question.  It is too broad.  “Determine the birth location of Edna Smith born 1845.” is narrow enough to satisfy the requirement to be a measurable objective, I.e. you will know when you achieve the goal.

2. The plan that each does for themselves is a series of questions and that’s it!

3. That the information I included as part of my research plan was actually a “profile,” a compilation of all the evidence that I had gathered about the individual in question. And while valuable, it was not the plan.

So, I have modified my personal definition oftrue search plans by narrowing my focus, by taking great care in defining the question, and focusing more on the questions raised and less on background of information on the focus person.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: worked to get the articles ready for the SGS Bulletin and now I am posting this from Ann Arbor, Michigan, where I am on a business trip. 

(1) Board for Certification of Genealogists, The BCG Application Guide, Washington DC: 2011, Requirements 3 & 4. 

(1) Patricia Walls Stamm, Targeted Research Plans,” NGS Magazine, vol.38, no. 2 (April- June), 44.


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