What's that PDF?

Organizing Your Research Project

Simon Elichko / Social Sciences Librarian



(something you do)



(something you find)

"I’m researching gender
identity and clowns."

"I'm looking for some research on
gender identity and clowns."

"Doing Research" ≠ "Finding Stuff"

Research projects often require you to do
multiple smaller searches.


Each smaller search (hopefully) yields sources.


This can lead to...

Directionless Tab Overload

The PDF Graveyard

Organizing your research
Three key practices:

• Take process notes as you work

          - Track what you've done and know what's next

• Consistently save the stuff you find

          - Stick to a system that is easy and reliable

• Annotate your saved sources

          - Why does this source seem relevant?

Take process notes as you work

Briefly write down:

- Your research question(s) and key due dates

- What have you done so far?
- What are your next steps? (however tentative)

Add updates as you keep working


Some useful tools //
- Daily research journal (date + what you did)
- Search Logs (example, blank version)
- Saving searches (make sure links are permanent)

- Browser history

- Mind-maps (e.g. Coggle)

Consistently save the stuff you find

Stick to a system that is easy and reliable


Bottom line: be predictable

Save everything the same way

Make sure you know what you've found
and that you can identify it later:

- basic citation info
- descriptive file-names

Annotate sources as you save them


Briefly write down:
Why does this article seem relevant?


By the time you read them, you won't necessarily remember why these 3 articles seemed useful...


Consider sorting and categorizing your sources soon after finding them

Some useful apps //

Personal research library - Zotero
         TriCo Libraries Guide to Zotero
Setting Up Zotero (step-by-step)

Project management - Trello, Workflowy


Note-taking - Simplenote, Google Keep, Evernote