The art of organization is essential in many facets of life, but especially important when planning a research project. It doesn’t take long to learn a lack of organization can quickly hinder the research process, along with creating unnecessary stress. Research projects are born on the basis of innovation and discovery; many start their initiatives thinking of the vision and end goal rather than the processes that are productive in getting them there. If you are like most, the initial intention to stay organized is there, but implementing these strategies proves to be more difficult than planned. To aid in this process, here are eight tips to help keep your project organized and help you achieve your research goals.
1. Choose an Outline Method
An outline acts as a road map for your project. It helps you organize and prioritize your thoughts and information. Fortunately, there is no right or wrong way to design your outline and there are various commonly used methods. However, with much creative liberty on how to slice and dice information, one can experience choice fatigue. But do not worry! The best, most informative outline methods are those that fit with your own personal work style! For those who are more visual, utilizing a chart with boxes and connecting lines may be beneficial. Another common avenue is using bullet points in more of a linear format. The method that you choose can vary, but it is essential to stay consistent throughout your project so all information stays organized.
2. Create Goals and Deadlines
Procrastination can easily sneak up on anyone. To combat this behavior, create goals and hard deadlines that are attainable and ensure you adhere to them. To successfully implement this strategy, create a hierarchy of goals and then determine a target completion date for each goal. Estimating the time commitment of each task can be difficult, but regularly reviewing these timelines can help ensure you stay on track.
3. Use a Calendar
Calendars are excellent for recording significant dates on the horizon, such as mid-project reports and goal deadlines. Each researcher should utilize the calendar method that works best for them, regardless if it’s in a digital or physical format. If you are using a digital calendar, we recommend turning on your notifications so you get alerts on your approaching deadlines. For this strategy to be successful, it is important to record the relevant dates ahead of time and refer to the calendar regularly.
4. Research Notebook
A research notebook, digital or physical, is a tool to keep all pertinent information relating to your project in one place. Dating each entry guarantees you can quickly locate necessary documents within your notebook. Most research projects occur over several months and up to several years, so you are likely to have an abundance of papers and information. Dating and consolidating documents makes your research notebook an effective and efficient tool.
5. Weekly Progress Reports
Weekly progress reports are a simple yet useful tool for keeping your project on track and holding yourself accountable to your goals. At the end of each week, you should check and record the progress you have made and consider how it contributes to your project. Weekly reports are a great opportunity to reference the calendar, so you are prepared for what is to come.
Writing is a big component of developing a research project. Organizing your project also means organizing your words and thoughts. It is important to ensure your findings are accurately represented in terms of not only your data, but grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as well. It is easy to skim over your writing and miss little mistakes here and there, which is why having attention to detail while proofreading is essential. Reading your words out loud is a great way to catch tiny errors. Also, in our digital age, downloading and using an AI-generated grammar and spelling machine is a great resource!
7. Keep a Works Cited Page for Your Research
Developing a research project not only involves experimentation and recording your findings but also seeking out information on what has been done before and exploring the impacts of similar studies. In using others’ research to supplement your project, it is important to have a citation page where you record the resources you have sought out. When you have a lot of sources, it can be easy to lose track of which ones you have recorded, which ones you want to keep, and so on. We recommend that you add your sources as you go. Doing so will allow you to maintain an organized system of information for your research project and ensure that you are giving credit where credit is due to avoid plagiarizing.
8. Backup Your Research Documents
The information you compile and the experimentations you conduct are valuable findings that are critical for your research project. With the majority of our information being digital nowadays, it is important to back up your documents – whether that be saving your information every time you update, having several copies of your work, or employing an auto-saving/cloud-based system. Making sure your research documents are backed up is a form of organization that keeps you protected against accidental deletion, technical difficulties with your device, or any other scenarios regarding the loss or damage of your work.
Overall, research projects benefit from robust organization; utilizing these techniques will help you stay focused and on track to meeting your end goals! There are a variety of strategies you can utilize to keep your research project organized, so use what works best for you and the parameters of your work style.
Are you looking for funding for your project? The CCI Research Foundation offers funding for perioperative nursing research! Sign up to receive a reminder email when applications open.
McLean, S. (2012). Managing Your Research Project . In Writing for Success v. 1.0. Saylor Academy .
Shaw, K. A. (2014, June). Organizing Your Research and Developing Your Research Skills . IEEE Potentials, vol. 33, issue 3, pp. 17-22.