I’ve found that getting organized before I begin researching and plotting a story is a key element in my writing process. If I don’t have a plan, I tend to lose perspective when things inevitably start getting messy. Here are some strategies for getting and staying organized throughout the research process.
1. Create a list of research topics relevant to your story.
If I’m writing about a person from the Philippines working on a cruise ship, my topics of research might be: the cruise industry, the Philippines, and migrant workers.
2. Break each topic into subtopics and each subtopic into smaller subtopics if necessary.
If one of my main topics is “the cruise industry” then my subtopics might be: history, vessel information, culture, competing companies, and news stories.
3. Determine which research methods are appropriate for your topic.
Examples of research methods are: books and periodicals, documentaries, blogs and personal accounts/reviews, corporate websites, news articles, interviews, and first-hand experience. I tend to keep a research notebook with me and jot down notes and facts when I’m on-the-go so that I can always refer back to it.
4. Decide on a timeline and create a schedule for each task on your research list.
Be reasonable with your timeline and set deadlines that you can actually meet. Understand that you will need days off and that some days you will be less productive than others. It’s a fine line, but try to locate the balance between taking too much on and letting yourself get lazy.
5. Focus on one research task at a time until you have completed them.
You will very likely drop some topics and add some others as you go, which is totally normal! The point is to know as much about your topic as possible so your story will be authentic.