Research is elemental to humanity. It’s our way of learning, discovering, and advancing our society as a whole. And in the age of the internet and smart devices, we can easily research and find answers to our questions in a matter of minutes.
But with that wealth of knowledge comes another challenge for larger research projects—organization. Depending on the scope of your work, you can easily end up with numerous sources and notes scattered across web browsers, emails, Word docs, databases, post-its, notebooks—you get the idea. This problem exists for writers and researchers everywhere, from the professional business setting to the world of academia.
If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed in the midst of a research project and wondered, “How in the world do I keep my research organized?” you’re not alone. It’s why digital tools for researchers exist, as we all share similar frustrations when it comes to organizing lots of information. Let’s explore how these tools, applications, and software packages can change your research and writing game for the better.
What Is the Role of Software in Research?
The right software can turn your research into an organized, well-documented oasis of knowledge. Many research software tools exist to support every step of the process, from gathering initial sources to writing and editing the final product. Other advantages include:
- Freedom from manual labor, like physically sorting through piles of paper and books.
- Significant time saved due the many features of research software, such as search capabilities that can quickly pull what you need from a large reservoir of information.
- More access to a wider range of resources, which provides a better understanding of the big picture, what other people are saying on any given topic, and a diverse range of perspectives.
- Fact-checking capabilities to ensure accuracy and enhance your credibility.
Tips for How to Organize Research Projects
There is no one perfect way to structure your research. If you ask a group of top researchers how they approach the process—in business, academia, or some other industry—you will no doubt get varying answers.
Even though we all have our own techniques to get to the end goal, there are still common threads we can all learn from to improve the structure of our research, like:
- Researching before you research – Think of this as getting a lay of the land before you dive in. You’re seeing what’s already out there, what’s missing, what competitors are up to, and figuring out the general perspectives on your topic. This will help you focus your research efforts when it’s time to really dig in. Plus, with this initial, broad understanding of the topic, you can more easily identify which sources are relevant and which are a waste of time.
- Determining your end goal – If you’re not sure what your end goal is, the preliminary research stage is a great place to figure that out. Jot down big ideas, thoughts, and questions you have as you explore the topic, and allow those to define your goals. And throughout the whole process, your desired final product should guide every research action you take.
- Keeping track of what you’ve tried – This is an especially helpful tip for long-term, ongoing, or group research projects. If you’ve already combed through one database for sources, and came up empty-handed, make a note of it. If you find the ultimate study to support your end goal or a pool of solid resources in one corner of the internet, keep track of that as well.
How Do I Structure My Research With Software?
Before you use or invest in any kind of research software, it’s best to first understand the way you learn and your desired outcomes. Depending on your unique research style and goals, the technology you use may look quite different than that of your colleague or coworker. You also may find one software or application that you use more than others, but it’s quite common to use a variety of tools to support your research journey.
Need some suggestions on where to start? Some notable research tools and software available today include:
- Google Scholar – If you’re researching on the internet and looking to weed out any sources that have not been peer-reviewed, Google Scholar is an excellent place to start. It’s like a basic Google search, but it only delivers results from scholarly literature. You’ll find articles, books, theses, case law, abstracts, and more. Although Google pulls many of these results from academic publishers, professional societies, and universities, it’s still always a good idea to check out the nature of the source Google presents you with.
- Make My Persona – As we’ve said, having your end goal in mind is key to structuring your research. If your end goal involves a particular audience or buyer persona, check out Make My Persona. This application allows you to develop a complete buyer persona, from naming your persona something like “Renee the Researcher” to laying out Renee’s background, work life, goals, challenges, and more. You can even choose a little avatar to represent your persona. Having this solid visualization of your audience can get your research team on the same page.
- SurveyMonkey – SurveyMonkey offers numerous tools for market research. You can track shopper insights, check out market sizing, conduct pricing research, create customized surveys, understand top buyer demographics, and so much more. This is one of many platforms that allows business professionals to dig deep into their research, resulting in higher quality presentations, proposals, reports, and any other business writing task you can think of.
- Slice – You have your end goal, you know what to research, and you’ve started gathering sources and making notes—but where do you put it all? How do you organize PDF files, Word docs, websites, notes, and all of the other things that start to pile up during your research? Slice was created to handle these particular pain points of the process. You can write content, make notes, save sources, and organize all of the above—in one convenient location. Slice also offers an integrated web clipper browser extension that allows you to quickly save sources directly to your Slice project. It removes extra website junk like ads and sidebars, so you can read without distractions.
What Is a Digital Research Tool That Works? Try Slice
If you’re tired of—
- Wasting precious time trying to relocate that perfect source you found last week
- Sifting through dozens of open browser tabs
- Failing to communicate with team members due to too many channel options
- Getting distracted by unrelated internet rabbit holes
—we get you. We developed Slice because we were tired of it all, too. Research projects don’t have to be messy. There can be flow, focus, and continuity—but you’ll need the right software and tools to get you there. Slice can be your research sanctuary, where you can organize, write, share, and create whatever you want.
Ready to control the chaos of research? Sign up for Slice today!