Monday, February 07, 2005

More on documenting your research

On Saturday, I was discussing research, writing and documenting. Specifically, how important the latter is to the former. Keeping track of all the information you assemble for your wip is one of the most important things you can do after crafting a good story and creating appealing characters.

Everyone has a slightly different method of tracking their information and if you're just starting out, you'll have to experiment a little to see what works best for you. Some people use the old fashioned notecard method. Two of the most popular ways to use notecards follow:

a) using coloured cards to separate the various categories of research - daily life, language, clothing etc, then using a separate card for recording information and noting the author, title, publisher, year and page number at the bottom or top of each card.

b) using separate cards for each piece of information (coloured or not) but only noting the name of the author and the page number at the top of the card. A separate set of cards is used to compile a bibliography - one source per card - to make for easy cross-indexing. Of course, if you use more than one book by the same author you'll have to number them so they can be easily distinguished in your notes.

Notebooks also remain popular - either a separate one for each category, or one with dividers in it in which each section is designated for a specific research area.

With the advent of the computer, a lot of research can be kept on a hard drive. There is a large variety of computer programmes designed specifically for research purposes, but they aren't always necesary (unless you LOVE software the way I do ). Some people maintain a Word or WordPerfect directory with files dedicated to information on a variety of topics. The professional version of WriteWayPro includes a wonderful Research Folder system, into which you can cut and paste all the information related to your novel.

There's also the older binder/filing cabinet system in which people print off all the relevant source material for inclusion in either binders or file folders.

In the end, I think most of us use a combination of most of the above methods. The most important thing is not to lose anything that is directly related to your book - when at all possible.

More tips on this tomorrow!


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