Is it Possible for a Writer to Organize Their Research?

By Jennifer Hallmark

As a writer, one of the pesky problems I deal with is how to organize everything to do with writing, especially research. Whether it’s short stories, novels, articles, or blog posts, groundwork is involved and I need somewhere to store quotes, answered questions, photos, and fact-finding. Is it even possible to keep up with it all?


The Inspired Prompt Crew has shared their thoughts this month on how to get started, historical research, current events research, TV and movie research, Biblical story retelling, and character research.

Now that you know how to research for your writing, you need ways to organize. I say ways because there are quite a few options and you need to experiment to find which one works for you. At the moment, I’m using a combination of the methods below. I’m working on the second book in my first series (Book one will release in June of 2019) and book series groundwork is a headache. But I am making my way down this overgrown trail…

(1) Microsoft Word files and documents. I do all my writing in Microsoft Word. I found it easiest to make a main file for my series, then sub-files for each book, and more sub-files within each book such as character birthdays, job information, research I’m keeping though I may not use it in the story, etc. All my groundwork is in separate sub-files that I can easily find. 

(2) Binders. I’m also experimenting with a binder containing only research. That way if I’m tired of sitting at the computer, I can take my binder with me and study, add or subtract notes, and keep the story fresh in my mind.

(3) Hanging folders. I haven’t tried this but my desk has a drawer equipped for hanging folders. This could be a good way to separate research you use in stories, novels, articles, etc.

(4) Scrivener. Scrivener is a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors. Scrivener provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. I’ve actually bought this program but haven’t figured it out yet. I’m a visual learner so I’ll probably have to sit down with someone and learn hands-on. Many of my friends, especially the novelists, use it and say they wouldn’t keep up with research any other way.

(5) Evernote.  When you go to this site, it says, “Meet Evernote, your second brain. Capture, organize, and share notes from anywhere. Your best ideas are always with you and always in sync.” You can use it with your tablet or smartphone and it keeps up with everything. Again, this is something I’ve signed up for but haven’t used yet.

I hope these ideas will give you a place to start. A lot of my research starts here …

I write longhand in notebooks, run off facts, and pile information until I finally take a day, go through it all, and put it where it needs to go. 🙂

Whatever works for you. That’s the way you need to organize your research.

Click to tweetWhether it’s short stories, novels, articles, or blog posts, groundwork is involved and you need somewhere to store quotes, answered questions, photos, and fact-finding. Is it even possible to keep up with it all? #research #organize

Writing prompt: Instead of a prompt, take one step this week to better organize your research. Download software, buy a binder, or try hanging folders.

6 thoughts on “Is it Possible for a Writer to Organize Their Research?

  1. Jennifer, I will teach one more year and retire…and THEN I will get organized…at least that’s my excuse! I’m still old school, so I like paper–printed articles, notes on post-its, notes in a gazillion little spiral notebooks each with it’s own content (mom blog, articles to write, guest post ideas, etc.). I have hanging files in my file drawer (empty). I organize files in Word and created files in the “bookmark” feature on my computer…but if I can’t see things easily (on paper), I forget what I have. I like binders and may try to reorganize–especially for all the marketing information I have. I need to check into Evernote. I could use a second brain! 🙂 But I do intend to get organized. It drives me crazy knowing I have great information scattered about. Maybe I’ll get a start over summer break.

  2. Organization is my least favorite task in any job I’ve undertaken. But it’s critical, and I’ve gotten a lot better about it over the years. I think it’s hard because administration is not one of my gifts, and I have to work at it. You are right, though…it’s something that has to be done. It’s best to take it like a bitter pill and get it over with!

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