I don’t do Research Logs…

IL court minutes 2016In fact, I really dislike keeping track of what I look at.  But, in my defense, I do keep a research log, but I do them differently.  I am far more successful and consistent in my record keeping if I combine the following three items into single document:

  • my research plan
  • my research log
  • my findings

But, those of you who looked at my research plan from the two posts know that the research plan, log and the findings morphed into a single report seamlessly. Each section is important but the report should be considered “organic,” i.e. it will change and grow as you research and analyze your data.

I found myself working in this manner while I was on my second road trip last summer. The three bullets melted together. The final write-up was a separate document.

Step 1: Develop the research plan. I would start by figuring out where I would be in the next few days — usually more than one respository–and develop a research plan for each. Each could be a separate Word doc. At that time, I would draft a citations using EE consisting of as much information as I could gather from the website for the items I wanted.

Step 2: Research. When I was at the repository, I would follow the research plan, and if the item was found, color the research plan draft citation green, copy the draft citation over to section called Findings. I would then complete the citation, do the research, and record the findings. (Of course, it was never that smooth, but you get the idea.)

Step 3: Negative Search. If I did not find the item, I would leave the font black on the draft citation for the research plan and cut and paste the draft citation into a section called “Negative Searches.” I would add notes indicating why it was no longer available, complete the citation, and add notes.

Step 4: Negative Findings. If I found the item, but it didn’t contain information relevant to the research question, I would cut and paste the draft citation into the section “Negative Findings.”  Again, I would add notes if it was appropriate and complete the citation, noting particularly the range of my review.

Step 5. New Discoveries. If I discovered some sources that I had not previously identified, I would either enter the draft citation into the research plan and proceed with what I was doing, or put the draft citation in the Findings section and make the notes/transcription as appropriate. [Note: these might be recommendations from the Archivist, for example.]

At this point in the report there are four sections: the Research Plan, Findings, Negative Searches (didn’t find the document at all) and Negative Findings (found the document but nothing relavant).

I had a lot of deeds to gather in one respository as both my grandfather and my great grandfather bought and sold land for a living. This created a situation where there were many deeds in a single index. This changed my pattern of onsite researching a little.

When I was gathering deeds at a particular location, I still did a citation template. I first recorded all the deeds that I wanted from that index, carefully recording the grantor/grantee, brief abstract of property, and volume and page number of each.  As I photographed each original deed, I changed the index notation from black font color to green, the “code” indicating that I had taken the photo.  There were some deeds I purposefully decided not to copy, and I colored the index notation red.  I made sure I had all the information necessary for a complete citation and moved to the next deed. If I didn’t find the deed/document (rare) I left it black.

Some documents I transcribed while I was on site but that was a rare occurrence. For example, the county clerks do not want you photographing vital records. Where I was restricted from taking the photo, I transcribed the document. [Research hint: when BMDs are recorded at the local and the state level, get them both. You never know what additional information you will find.]

While there are many classes in how to develop research plans, and research logs and writing reports, all with elaborate spreadsheets, it always seemed like too much work. No spreadsheet, no matter how elaborate, can get me to enter everything I research as well as the system I have noted above. I think my method–for me–results in a more integrated report. All the information from a single repository is in a single place.

The next step is to write the report, but you now have all the information gathered together in a single spot. Congratulations.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I am deeply trying to learn DNA analysis and attempting to solve a problem on my hubby’s mother’s side of the family.  I have also volunteered to assist in updating the content in the BCG website. There is a whole team of folks doing this….a herculean effort.


3 comments on “I don’t do Research Logs…

  1. LisaGorrell says:

    I love the idea of changing the color of the text in your research plan! I love color and use color in my reports to have certain items stand out. I will consider color in the research plan now. Some I do on paper and I can use color pens/highlighters to indicate what I’ve done.

  2. Robbie says:

    Just saw this post and laughed. I’ve been evolving this method of incorporating research plan, citations and logs into one report document as I go, over the past two years. I even described it as letting my document grow “organically” in a paper I wrote a few months ago for a study group. I started out with a log for this and a form for that and things kept falling through the cracks. Now I know that even if my file is a mess, everything is in there somewhere.

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