I recently discovered that my posts about “Research Plans” consistently get the most hits of all of my archived posts by readers using the search feature on this blog. That indicates to me that genealogical research plans continue to be a struggle for readers to understand and to write. I personally have come full circle about the usefulness of research plans and have a better (but not perfect) understanding of them.
It still takes longer than I would like for me to write research plans; therefore, I suspect my skill level will continue to evolve. This post marks my personal progress.
You can read the past blogs about research plans here:
11 September 2012: How Do You Do a Research Plan?
4 October 2012: What Have I Learned Lately About Research Plans?
9 March 2013: Have You Done a Research Plan Before?
31 March 2013: Research Plans! I Have Become a Believer
CONCEPT 1: I first struggled with the time it took to write research plans; it seemed like a waste of time. I now see how the plan can be the outline for the research report and save time instead of “taking time.” Research plans keep me focused and serve as a “touchstone” to return to when I veer “off track” while researching a particular problem for a client or my own genealogical questions.
CONCEPT 2: I still like the basic format of the ESM research plan I noted in a previous post and found on: http://www.apgen.org/resources/worksamples.html
CONCEPT 3: You must have a strong research question.1 This question seeks information about identity, relationship or event. It includes enough information to make the individual “unique in the world,” — to quote Tom Jones. Thus, there are two parts to every research question:
- the identification of the person with enough identifiers to make her or him unique in the world and
- the interrogatory–the question you wish to have answered.
In a previous post I decided that my research question would be “What was the death date of Frederick Eilers, second husband of Eda/Ida Berg.” While this is much better than my other examples in the post, I now see that it could still be improved. Today, I would make the question:
“What was the death date of Frederick Eilers, who married Eda Berg (1811-1889) in 10 October 1862 in the German Reformed Church in Freeport, Stephenson County, Illinois.”
The addition of the identifiers make Eda and Frederick “more unique” than in the previously developed research question. Unfortunately, I do not know much more about this relationship than I did back in 2013 when I wrote the research question the first time! (In my defense, I haven’t been looking either.)
CONCEPT 4: I have learned to “write as you go.” By spending time on the research plan and putting it into a format I can use for the client report, I save time in the writing of the report. Writing client reports used to take 50% of the time allotted for the project. By doing a research plan first and then using the research plan as my outline for the client report, I estimate I shortened the writing of the report to about 33% of the time — and that includes the writing of the research plan! It leave more time for research, bringing better value to the client for my work.
Are my research plans perfect? Far from it but I am getting better.
What I have done since the last posting: attended a business conference in North Carolina and spent vacation time on Cape Cod with hubby, daughter and her boyfriend. Great fun. Presented to the Cape Cod and Falmouth (MA) Genealogical Societies on 19th century emigrant decision making and the changing roles for women during the Civil War. It stormed so vigorously just prior to the presentation that I was afraid we were going to lose electricity. Luckily, it didn’t.
1 Tom Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (National Genealogy Society, 2013). See the Chapter on writing the research question.
2Photo take by the author at the Elgin Historical Museum in Elgin, Illinois in July of 2013. They have a wonderful collection of Elgin watches. The inclusion of the timepiece on any post indicates that the post relates to the BCG portfolio requirements for certification and is about being “on the clock.”