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Research Guides

Strategies for Organizing Your Research: Home

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Image Credit: "The Chef's Prep Area" by CUESA, CC BY-NC 2.0

Organizing Principle

There is a principle in cooking known by the French term mise en place (mi-z' an pla-s'), or "setting in place." Mise en place  refers to preparing all of your equipment and ingredients before you start cooking a dish. You can apply this same principle to research.

If you want to create a research paper, for example, your equipment might include a word processing program on your computer, online databases, and a notebook for recording your ideas. Your ingredients would include articles and  books on your topic, your own notes and ideas, and so on. Setting these things in place will help you stay organized and improve your chances of cooking up a delicious research paper.

Before you Start

As a student, you will likely have several research projects throughout college, and having a place to store your work will save you time and frustration along the way. Before you start any research project, it helps to have a plan for keeping all the files and documents related to your project in an easily accessible place. There are as many possible organizational schemes as there are people, but here is an example of one you might consider trying.

Create a file-naming scheme for all project-related files

Before you do anything else, decide how you will name the file folders and files related to your project. For example, if you are assigned a persuasive essay in your ENGL 2010 class, you might use something like semester&year-course#-assignment_title-file_type (Fall2019-ENGL2010-persuasive_essay-research_notes). This may seem like a long title for a your research ntoes, but it builds organization and efficiency into your system.

Set up a file folder for the project (give it a name)

Create a file folder on your computer or in a cloud-based online file storage system like Google Drive (available through your SUU email account), iCloud Drive, or Dropbox.  Building on the example from the last paragraph, you might name the file folder Fall2019-ENGL2010-persuasive_essay.

Create sub-folders and working documents for organizing your research

Creating sub-folders within the main project folder can be useful for organizing drafts of your paper or presentation slides, PDF copies of information sources, image files, notes, or whatever else you need. Remember your file-naming scheme when creating sub-folders. (Fall2019-ENGL2010-persuasive_essay-source_PDFs).

You might also want to create documents for keeping citations for sources, quotes, notes on the research process, outlines, and drafts of your paper, and so on (Fall2019-ENGL2010-persuasive_essay-source-citations). Remember, professors will often specify what they want you to name files that you turn in to them (ex: Harry-Potter-Peruasive-Essay), so make sure you rename your final copy of the project if it differs from our own file-naming scheme.

image of project folder in Google DriveMaintain your organization throughout the project

Once you have your organizational system in place, make sure you use it. For example, as you find information sources you might use your project, save PFD files or scans from books in a sub-folder AND copy or create citations for these sources in a working document. This will make it easy to find, quote, and cite sources as you create your paper, presentation, or whatever the assignment requires.

Scholarly Communication Librarian / Assistant Professor of Library and Information Science

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Chris Younkin
Sherratt Library 303C
(435) 865-8054