One of the strengths of ResearchTies is its capacity to assist with research planning. As mentioned in the previous blog post, it is important that research be driven by a goal. When you know what you are looking for, it’s easier to know where to look! At the beginning of any research session, know what your objective is, whether returning to an unfinished goal or beginning a new one. Focus your efforts.
With an objective recorded in ResearchTies, the next step is to determine what searches will be conducted to meet that objective. There are many online catalogs for various repositories around the world. Search catalogs for resources that will be applicable to your research question and may contain information to assist in reaching your goal. When you are ready to record the relevant sources, locate the applicable objective and click “Add Search.”
When recording Searches, it’s important to realize that you aren’t just planning to “look” at a source, you are planning a specific Search. What is the scope of the Search? Who are you searching for? What are the jurisdictional limits–a particular township, county, state, country? Are you placing time limits on the Search–a specific span of years? Define for yourself the limits of the Search. As you determine the person, family, or surname for whom you will search in a defined place and time, it will be clear exactly what needs to be done when accessing the source.
For data entry, the first step is to select the source from the dropdown box. If this is a new source that you have not recorded in the database previously, click on the green add button in the title or author field. A template will open to allow creation of a new source with its full bibliographic citation. Every source will need to be added to the database only once, and each time it is needed after that, it will be available to select from the dropdown. The author and title of each source are recorded in separate fields so the database can use that information in the dropdowns. The remainder of the citation should be recorded in a standard format in the “Additional Citation Details” field. (Do not repeat the title and author here, because the citation will be brought together in other areas of the program.) This citation field is a text field to allow total flexibility in recording citations, as needed, for any type of record for any area of the world.
Next, save the source and continue recording the parameters of the Search. The jurisdiction will be either the jurisdiction of the source or a smaller area if you are narrowing it further. If the source does not have a jurisdiction (family letters, a biography, etc.), select “General Source.” When recording the scope of the Search, be specific, as already mentioned. This is an essential element in planning research. When visiting a repository, whether in person or online, you will need to know exactly what you planned to do. The scope also gives meaning to a nil Search. Knowing exactly what was searched and what you were looking for is necessary for quality evaluation. Lastly, entering the record type provides the necessary information to find Searches by record type at a later time. If desired, add any comments that might be helpful when conducting the Search.
With full details recorded for planned Searches, genealogists are more focused and efficient in their work. In ResearchTies, a “to do” list can be generated easily so that no Searches are ever forgotten. When looking for relevant sources, don’t neglect repositories that are at a distance. Record those Searches, and if an opportunity arises to travel, a “to do” list for the repository can be generated instantly at any time in the future. Also, when working through a “to do” list, there will be no temptation to skip the recording of nil searches, because only a date and checkmark are needed.
Learn to be a more effective researcher by planning and focusing your efforts. Record your plan, generate a “to do” list, and then work your plan.