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These days, anyone can have a blog. Therefore, we often suffer at the hands of authors without proper writing education. The internet is a self-published writer’s playground.
As such, formal compositions are rarely seen in the blogosphere. People often share their thoughts and ideas in a jumbled fashion. Research has become less and less important to many.
However, there are still a few of us who value well-written, heavily-researched, quality pieces. While the research process does have its merits, it can be challenging. Here are five steps to help organize your research and make the overall writing process more effective.
1. Record Everything
One of the most important parts of organization is proper documentation. That’s why this is step one. You must do it correctly from the very beginning.
Obviously, you want to properly cite your sources any time you reference a direct quote, thought, or idea. Often times that involves something simple like, “According to Dr. Katherine Zeratsky at Mayo Clinic…” Or, you might mention something along the lines of, “In the book The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly…”
Citation is all fine and wonderful. But what if, later in the article, you want to mention another idea Dr. Zeratsky mentioned in her interview. Do you know where to find it? Did you save the website URL? What happens if you want to elaborate on Mr. Connelly’s idea? Do you know what page the original quote was found on?
Without proper records from the get-go, it is incredibly difficult to go back and organize your thoughts later on. Jot down sufficient information about every source you use.
Not only will this help you produce the writing project at hand, but it will also help you with similar works in the future. Consider formulating a database to track all the sources you use. Group the sources by topic. That way, if you ever need to write about the same subject in the future, you already have a great storehouse of research possibilities.
2. Always Be Ready for Genius to Strike
Inspiration can strike at the strangest times. Supporting data can be found just about anywhere. Be ready to document these genius revelations when you happen upon them.
One of the best ways to do that is to have great organizational apps within easy reach at all times. Take a look at some of the best organizational apps out there. Many are extremely conducive to writing – Evernote, Springpad, WorkFlowy, and Sticky Notes are just a few of the most popular.
You can easily jot down your ideas as they spring up. Later, you can go back and organize them. Many of these apps allow you to search by tags or keywords. This makes it easy to group similar ideas together.
3. Let Your Thesis Guide You
“Thesis” might sound like an academic idea – one that is out of place in the world of blogging. However, the thesis of your writing is simply the main idea of your composition. And every worthwhile composition must have one.
Choose your thesis – or main idea – carefully. Then, let it tell you where to take the article. If your thesis is, “Social media marketing is a waste of time,” toss out the research you’ve done on cats. Anything that threatens to take the article on a tangent should be pitched right now.
4. Grab a Sketch Pad
Your thesis provides the general direction for your article. However, it is not capable of producing a plan to organize your ideas.
With our dependence on technology these days, most writers skip directly to the outline phase. However, there is a lot to be said for old school, simpler techniques. Often times, we can’t really visualize where the final piece is going with a list of facts and figures. Instead, we can get a much better grasp for the overall flow with a diagram.
Turn your computer off and grab a sketch pad. Place your thesis in the center of the page and then figure out how to connect all your supporting ideas. Use circles, arrows, colored pencils – whatever you need to figure out where things should go.
Don’t worry – your sketch will probably become a jumbled mess. No one is going to see this stage of the writing process, so don’t fret if there are lots of things crossed out or moved around. Just use this time to connect like-minded ideas.
5. Make an Outline
We are finally getting to the step most writers put much higher up in the writing process. However, if you jump to this stage too quickly, you fail to complete the other necessary steps.
If you outline too early, you begin to think lineally too soon. You miss the way ideas can be interwoven to make a point more effectively.
Use the outline to formulate topic-specific chunks of information. These will become your subheadings and supporting content. Then, break down the information even further to outline each paragraph. Remember to tie everything back to your thesis (or main idea).
Often times, writers will outline the body of the article first. The last stage of the outlining process is to draft an introduction and conclusion. It is important to address these paragraphs in the outlining stage. This ensures you have thought-provoking, eye-catching, and enticing research findings to both draw the reader in and send them off to think.
During the outlining process, make sure you do plenty of editing. If, at other points in the organizing process, you haven’t purged unnecessary points you’ve acquired during the research process, do so now.
Only include the information that best supports the argument you want to make. Truman Capote once said, “I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” Take his words to heart.
Don’t forgo the research process just because it is sometimes challenging to organize your thoughts. Follow these five tips and you’ll have a well-structured blog article that is founded on quality research.