Welcome back! Today, Crystal Caudill is sharing more ideas about research. Love it or hate it, you gotta do it. 🙂 Take it away, Crystal!
Organizing the Research
As much as I hate to admit it, taking notes which are easy to reference is critical. It is really important to keep a running bibliography so that you can back up your research when questions arise, and you can reference something if you get confused as you look over your notes.
I use a program called Scrivener, and under the research tab I create folders. My “big folders” are named by the topic: Setting, Etiquette, Fashion, Gardening, etc. My broad needs are labeled for quick reference.
Inside of each folder, I break it down to it’s smaller component topics. My current character is a master gardener, and I am a black thumb, so under my gardening folder I have topics like: Master Gardener (which will include examples, requirements, real people and their gardens which I can reference), Plants Heroine Works With, etc.
Beyond that, each book resource will get its own folder. Each website gets a single text document. I name these text documents and book folders by the name of the resource, and also by the topic if the resource is focused on a single topic. I take my notes in a table format:
|Page Number||Exact Quote||Personal Notes/ Observations||Possible Plot Points|
|1||“ABC”||It’s the alphabet||A letter goes missing|
It is a bit tedious, but I do find that it has been invaluable in brainstorming, reviewing information, and finding a specific fact quickly.
Each person has their own method, this is just mine, so do not feel like you HAVE to do it my way. Do be sure to keep track of your resources though. You never know when you will have to justify something you wrote.
When it comes to conducting research, it is easy to get lost in the mire of possibilities. You can visit museums, websites, historical societies, read history books or primary sources, travel, or even search satellite maps.
Most of my research is done from home and online. To find my resources, I usually start with a search of my local library’s catalogue or a Google search to find some reputable resources. Yes, I even go to Wikipedia—but only as a starting point to direct me somewhere else. I get what information I can, and then I look at their bibliographies. This is how I narrow down what I am going to read.
I prefer diaries, books, and newspapers written during the era I’m writing. This can be difficult and expensive if I’m not careful. I highly recommend seeing if your public library has a subscription to Historic Newspapers websites. Mine has several. From home, I can read newspapers and search for topics in those newspapers for free. It is marvelous.
For books, there has been a wonderful movement to digitalize old books and most of them are free to read. Below I’ve given you a list of my favorites. You can search by title, year, subject, or even keywords. It has been a lifesaver, especially during these strange times which make research extra difficult.
While finding books from the 1880s can be expensive and difficult, there are a lot of books that have been digitalized and can be searched for free. Below, I’ve given you some of my favorites.
https://babel.hathitrust.org/ – This is my favorite resource. It can take some weeding through, and you’d definitely want a specific title, but I have found countless resources here.
https://books.google.com/ – They list them all, whether you can read them or not, so just make sure they say Free E-book when you click on it.
https://archive.org/ – This one has gotten in trouble lately for pirating current books, so make sure you are only looking at books printed before WWI. Generally I only go to this website once I have a specific title in mind. There are usually multiple copies of the same book and it does take some weeding through.
Search for the historical society of the area you are researching. Some of them have online resources, some will be thrilled to talk to you and help you out, and some will never answer back. Either way, they are a go-to resource for information you would never have imagined.
Stay tuned. There’s more!
Crystal Caudill is a tea-drinking, book-hoarding, history nerd. Her parents had no idea what a monster they were creating when they took her to her first history museum. From that moment on she has been researching and crafting stories filled with danger, love, and history. She enjoys her Kentucky life as a wife, mother of two crazy boys, and caretaker. You join Crystal on her writing journey or peruse her book reviews at www.crystalcaudill.com.
“When it comes to conducting research, it is easy to get lost in the mire of possibilities.” ~ @CCaudillWrites via @GailJohnson87 #writetip #amwritingTweet