A Research log is an important tool to help organize and track your research work. I worked many years without using a research log. I found myself repeating my research, finding information that I have no idea where I got it and repeating negative searches over and over. And failing to correctly document my sources. How many times have you found a resource, but didn’t remember where you got it?
The Value of Research Logs:
- Reduce duplication of effort.
- Cite your sources. This helps improve the quality of your research.
- Determine what has and has not been found.
- Helps organize your documents and your research.
- Evaluate the evidence to make better conclusions.
- Show your search strategies and questions. You can more easily repeat the process for the next ancestor.
- Shows negative evidence (what you did not find).
Does using a Research Log take more time? Yes, in the short term, you will spend more time documenting and evaluating your sources. What you’ll get in return will be higher quality research and your work will be more credible. Long term, you will save time by not repeating research you’ve already done. Adding structure to your work will also allow you to know what your goals are and keep you on track. If you have an hour here and there, you will know what exactly it is you need to do, instead of ‘running in circles’.
If you plan to publish your work, your research log will be invaluable in pulling together source citations.
For the Genealogy Do-Over, I have downloaded and will be using Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Research log (clicking the link should download the document). It is in a spreadsheet format and FREE.
Thomas’ research spreadsheet also includes the following helpful sheets to assist you in documenting your resources within genealogy standards:
- Research Log
- Sample Log
- To Do List
- Search Attempts
- Citation Formats (Awesome)
- Evidence Evaluation – Provides Type Definitions for Source, Evidence, Result, Clarity and Information. (Awesome too)
It’s obvious that Thomas has put a lot of thought and time into creating this spreadsheet. Thank You, Thomas!
Research Log Templates and Forms
If you prefer using pen and paper, there are literally hundreds of free Research Logs available online. Just search ‘Genealogy Research Log’ on your favorite search engine. Here are just a few I found in a quick search:
- Genealogy Research Log by “Thomas MacEntee” on Google (my personal favorite). This link should download the .xls file.
- Genealogy Log of Documents – By Midwest Genealogy Center – Family History Forms
- Ancestry Charts & Forms by Ancestry.com
- Internet Research Log by ShoeString Genealogy
- Bailey’s Free Genealogy Forms – downloadable pdf forms
- FamilySearch.org Research Forms – Research Log is available in downloadable pdf or Word format.