It is important for family historians to regularly analyze their work and plan the next research step before ever approaching the library. When it’s time to research, the plan should already be in place. Wandering through book stacks, library catalogs, or large websites is not an efficient way to find needed information. Write objectives (set goals), then plan the sources to be searched to meet your goal. An earlier blog post has been written about recording Searches in ResearchTies.
With planning and recording searches in ResearchTies as part of your research process, you will never forget thoughts and ideas of where to look for additional evidence.
When it’s time to begin a research session, generate your “to do” list. Use the ResearchTies search engine to retrieve planned searches for the repository where you will be working. All matching entries will be listed instantly—even if they were planned months or years ago.
1. From the home page, click on “Search Your Logs,” or click the magnifying glass in the blue toolbar.
2. In the dropdown box, select “Searches.”
3. Select the Repository.
4. Select any other desired variables to narrow the hits. For example, if a user wants to focus their work on one family, they can narrow to only that family as well.
5. In the “Include” section, uncheck “All” and select “To do.”
6. Click “Search.” (Click on the images to view them in a larger size.)
A list of Searches meeting the criteria will be returned. If planned searches have been fully recorded, this “to do” list will display the repository, call number, complete source citation, the scope planned for the search (who and what you’re looking for), and a link to “Add the Result.” While conducting research, access the source, search it, “Add the Results,” then save. The program will return to the “to do” list to choose the next planned item. This process will help you to be a very efficient researcher, and everything necessary to analyze the results will have been recorded in the program for future reference.
In the process of planning searches, don’t neglect to study catalogs of distant repositories that might have relevant records for the research problem. Don’t ignore the existence of those sources only because it is not an archive or courthouse with easy access. If the opportunity ever presents itself to visit that repository, you will already have your plan in place. When it’s time, generating the list of potentially helpful items will take a matter of seconds.
Every time results are analyzed, new objectives are written, or ideas come for new searches, data enter those plans and ideas. When it’s time for a session of research, whether it be online or at a library, archive, or courthouse, generate the “to do” list and work your plan. With the multi-variable search engine, it’s possible to create a list of broad or very focused “to do” items. Fewer search variables will return a broad list, more variables will narrow to a shorter list.
Goal-setting sessions, planning sessions, research sessions, and analysis sessions are commonly used by professional researchers. Plan your next searches and generate your “to do” list today!