Posted by: nancyisanders | November 20, 2007

Research Tips

I’m trying to break into a nonfiction magazine for kids I’ve never written for before. Yesterday, the free samples of the magazine arrived in the mail. (Even though most places say it costs for samples, I’ve learned that if you simply e-mail the editor of the magazine, explain that you’re interested in sending a sample submission, and request a sample magazine, they are happy to send you a couple free copies.) Also, in the mail arrived two key research books I purchased used at for a total of $10 because the assigned topic is actually one I plan on writing for on other projects. And five more books arrived in my library yesterday that I ordered in for research. So I’m ready to go!

I plan on first reading through the sample magazines to find articles that fit the format mine will be written in. Then I’ll start reading through my own research books that I purchased to jot down important facts of interest to kids. Then I’ll read through the borrowed books to flesh out my resources.

The editor told me she wants three sources for each fact I state. So I have a system that seems to work. I give each book I’m using a little code letter such as AA or AB or AC. When I write down a fact I find, I write down the code for the book plus the page number. When I find that same fact in the next book, I also jot down the code for that book plus the page number. After reading through several books and jotting down the page numbers of the facts I find, I then go back and look over my notes. Any fact that has 3 sources next to it can go right into my article! If other facts look interesting, but I only have two sources, I need to look for more sources to support those facts.

Here’s a sample of my notes:
Binare are ancient walled cities in Nigeria AA23, AC182, BA3
Kano is the oldest ancient walled city AA23, AB10, AC180
Kano still has portions of the wall tourists can see today AB12, AD480
Picture of wall in Kano AD12

I keep a list of codes/book titles on the computer so I can easily use the search/find tool in a future project to keep track of which books are which codes. (On my own books I actually write the code on a sticky note in the front of the book or even on the title page if the book is used and already beat up.) It’s a bit time-consuming, but when an editor contacts me for a fact check, as has happened, I quickly pull out my notes, find the titles and page numbers of my resources, and send them to her.


  1. Great tips, especially the coding system. I’m definitely going to try to work a system like that for my next nonfiction project!

  2. Yes, the coding system has helped me keep track of my resources. How did you keep your notes organized while you were working on your new alphabet book?

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