2003, 2004, 2005 & 2006: Named one
of the 101 best Web sites for writers by Writers Digest Magazine.
Yikes! What Do I Do
It happened several months ago, on that fateful day, when I had completed my research for an article I was writing on sea gulls. Ready to begin writing, I gazed upon the sea of papers I had strewn on the table like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Confused, I cried out in dismay, "Yikes! What do I do now?" I had a heap of Internet sources in front of me and no clear direction where I was headed to. So, like all highly motivated writers, I shoved the information into my file folder and went off to the kitchen for a snack.
I'd like to say that while I was snacking I had a great epiphany about how I could organize all that research into a great article, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. No, I learned the old-fashioned way. This is what I discovered in the process.
Place several sheets of regular notebook paper in the center with the clips. On the first page of the folder you should have the outline of your article. The other sheets may be used to write notes you gather from the library, book or magazine resources, interviews by phone or in person, and any other sources you may have.
Portfolios and notebook paper are sold at Back to School sales for a very reasonable price. You can probably get what you would need for several projects at minimal cost. Other helpful tools you will need are a highlighter marker, three tab notebook dividers, Post-it™ notes, and a three-hole punch.
Don't Trust Your Memory
The slant of my article was such that I gleaned most of my information from the Internet. I didn't highlight the needed information at the time I found it and, believe me, I did not remember what part of the resource I needed. I had to read through all the articles again!
So, as you gather your information, highlight what is pertinent to your article or particular slant. This will save time and headaches when you are ready to sit down and write.
When gathering Internet information, print the pages out and place them in a pocket of the portfolio. This is especially helpful if you do not have a computer and are getting the information from a library computer, or some other location, or simply need to put them away for later use. Placing information in the portfolio will keep it clean and organized until you can get to it.
Another helpful tip is to log your Internet sources on a sheet of the notebook paper, along with the date, for bibliographic purposes. The information may no longer be on the Internet when you go back later.
Everything In Its
As you gather your notes and highlighted information, look at your outline and determine which section of your article the information would best fit into. Punch holes in the paper and insert into the beginning, middle, or end categories. Then, continue this process as you obtain information for your manuscript.
A pocket in the folder will be useful in holding information you may want to use for a side bar. You can also tape a sheet of lined paper to the front pocket and record names and numbers of contacts you may want to interview, or dates you are scheduled to meet with them.
Another benefit of the portfolio system is that it is easy to carry and doesn't take up lots of space. The materials are held securely inside. When you sit down to write, your organized resources will be at your fingertips and not falling off your desk while you shuffle through them. Also, when your manuscript is complete, the portfolio will fit into the file cabinet with the finished article. Your research material is in a handy location if you should need to refer to it later.
Using this method to organize your
research will save you time and help you begin to fit together the pieces of
your nonfiction manuscript puzzle.
Pamela Kessler is married and the mother of one teenage son. Writing has been the desire of her heart since high school. She is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and is currently enrolled in their advanced writing course. She has been published by The Institute on their Web site in the Writing Tips section. Currently she's beginning work on a picture book with a multi-cultural theme.