Posted by: nancyisanders | September 30, 2019

Writer’s Journal: Research and Tracking Notes


If you’ve been following along with my posts, you know that I opted to keep handwritten research notes in homemade journals during my two-and-a-half-year journey to write my newest book, JANE AUSTEN FOR KIDS.

One of the challenges in keeping a handwritten journal is tracking the research notes. And as one of my online writing friends, Annette, posted in a recent comment, she asked, “When you are taking notes from various sources, how do you keep track chronologically?”

There are a couple of ways I track my research, whether it’s chronological or topical.


One way I track my research is to be very careful in my table of contents. If you zoom in closely to the photo right above, on page 25 I added a note to (See also p. 66). This was because I ran out of room in this part of my journal, so I added another page later on to include more information on that topic.

Some research entries I had to continue in a separate research journal because this one filled up. Again, in my table of contents I made a note.

Alternately, I would make a note on the page when I turned to it in my journal. I would write: For more info on this topic, go to Journal #3, page 44 etc.

I also like to create and use outlines as I research a manuscript I’m writing. Since I was writing a birth to death plot for Jane Austen in my book, my outline was in chronological order.

I didn’t create an outline in my writer’s journals. My outline stayed on my computer so I could quickly and easily type in new details where they needed to go. I would print this out occasionally as I was working, to refer to it while I was reading my research books in a comfy chair.

So when I’m using multiple sources, such as I did when I wrote Jane Austen for Kids, here’s my general method for keeping track of chronological events.

I frequently read one chapter or section in my research book. Such as the chapter on Jane’s birth. I took notes in my journal and then picked up another research book and read the section about her birth, adding more notes or backing up notes I already write with the page number of that research book, too.

For example, I created a page in my writer’s journal for:

Jane is born.

On that page in my writer’s journal, I wrote down all the facts from that research book regarding Jane’s birth. My entry reads:

Jane is Born
Born December 16, 1775 MEM1, CH249, CW68, GT6, BCA21,
Born at Steventon Rectory CW68, GT6
Details of birth EJ9, DLFR27
Father baptized her the next day GT6, IC2, HW23
Mrs. Austen write to her relatives a letter to quote AL571

As you can see by my entries, I include with each note I write the secret code I assign to each different research book, along with the page number where that fact was found. I usually like to back up each fact/note with at least 2 sources and hopefully at least 3.

As you can see by the last entry I included, I only have one research source for that. It’s because that particular research book is a primary source (and it’s in the public domain), so I only have to have one source listed for a primary source that is in the public domain.

Do you have any more questions about this process I use? Let me know before I move on to more info about keeping a writer’s journal!

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