Keep research notes for your book organized

If you’ve adequately researched your nonfiction book, then you probably have so many notes that organizing them is a must. Unless you do so, the writing of your first draft won’t go smoothly.

The best approach to take is to make a loose outline in advance of any notetaking. This can help guide your research. As you take notes, simply place them under the appropriate header on a word processing file.

As your knowledge of the topic grows with the research, your outline will evolve. The placement of points will shift and specific ideas that will be written about under each section will expand and become firmer. Some notes may need be cut and paste to new headers.

Only take and store notes on the outline kept on your computer. Ideas on Post-it notes, quotations in different notepads, and interview answers left in emails are bound to be lost or forgotten. Any notes taken on another platform – I personally prefer to write interview answers on a notepad rather than type them during the Q&A, for example – should immediately be transcribed in a single file with the rest of your notes.

All of this may seem like a lot of work. But far less efficient and actually creating more work is tearing articles out of magazines, printing off online articles – both to be looked at later – or taking all of your notes on index cards that then are shuffled and reshuffled to fit your outline. You’ll still need to type notes onto your computer sooner or later, and if you wait until later, you’ll probably have to re-read the article to find the relevant text.