Do you religiously research and document that research while preparing to write an article for you or another’s blog? If you don’t, you should start. Consider it a best practice for any writer. Why? Lots of reasons come to mind, but here are my top three.
1. It helps you remember where you obtained information. Actually, it eliminates having to remember everything, you just go back to your research.
2. Documents how much research you did.
3. Documents the sources of your research.
4. Provides proof for quotes, opinions, statistics, etc. used in your article. Oh, I said three. Consider this a bonus reason.
I didn’t always research topics. Being perpetually curious, my mind is full of all sorts of information on a considerable number of topics. Not bragging here, it’s just the way my mind works. If you need a partner for a trivia contest, look me up. I kill it in science, technology, history, geography, and so forth.
But I digress. Knowing a little about a lot, I would just write. It was fabrication, it was taking what I had learned and expanding it into an article. However, people will not always be willing to take what you write at face value. As Grissom from the original CSI series often said, “Cite your sources.” A response along the lines of, “I read it in an airline magazine/National Geographic,” doesn’t reassure many people.
So, I began to do more research on topics. For years, I created a research document in Word. I’d collect the following information:
· Search strings and the browser being used because Edge/ IE 11 return different results than Chrome.
· Websites I visited
· Paste in text or graphics I found particularly useful.
Below is a screenshot of one of these papers.
A better way
Creating these documents worked but was not the best solution. It was somewhat time-consuming and didn’t lend itself well to keeping track of any supporting documents I might download for reference and source material. These were stored in a different folder and not accessible from the document itself.
Enter BubblesPlanner and its companion Chrome extension Bookmarks Manager. Before we go any further, let me explain why using BubblesPlanner is ideal for documentation purposes.
First, writing an article is a task, right? Researching for that article is also a task. Having a task management tool is an excellent way to keep track of progress and what has, or hasn’t been done.
Second, BubblesPlanner is more than a simple to-do list. It is a full-featured task management, knowledge base creation, and collaboration tool. All tools that lend themselves well to researching and preparing articles.
Third, everything imaginable related to the completion of each task is stored within the app. This includes links, documents, photos, graphs, chat conversations, and so forth. Want to find something? Go to the task, and it will be there – assuming you added it of course.
Fourth, its search capabilities are probably the best of any I’ve encountered. It will find stuff in the middle of a word if that’s all you can remember.
Fifth, it is effortless to learn and use, plus it adapts to my working style rather than forcing me to adapt to it. Sure, it has its requirements, but they are straightforward to master.
BubblesPlanner in action
For the balance of this article, I am going to demonstrate how I use the app to research. Prerequisites for taking the same approach, or modified to match your style, are a BubblesPlanner account and the companion Chrome extension. The extension is what allows you to capture content. It also comes with a really slick bookmarks manager, the topic of another article. Grab it here. Or, search for BubblesPlanner Visual Task Manager in the Chrome store.
1. Choose where to create your task.
You can do this in either BubblesPlanner or the extension. Below are screenshots of each option, starting with the app. Click the button.
2. Create and use your task
Here’s what you see when you click the Create Task button for each option, showing the app pop up box on the left and the extension on the right. I use both, but most often, I use the app since it offers more options for categorizing the task. You can always do these things later in the app if you use the extension’s task creation tool. Enter a name for the task and fill in any other information you want. Click Okay.
To the right is the completed pop up for a new article. I entered a task Title, Description, left the Due Date as Week 1 (current week), Changed the label to Research, and left the Effort level at the default of 3. Below you see my new task as displayed in the app.
If creating task from the extension there is one requirement is to provide task name.
3. Time to research!
I am using the following search string, “US cities with the best bike paths.” As soon as the results are displayed, I click on the extension icon and see the following view.
4. The extension’s capture view
This view shows me all the tasks currently active in BubblesPlanner. The new task I created is at the top, so I click on it and get the following pop up then click on OK. Why do I save this link? It is an excellent practice to keep search strings so you can go back and explore additional results later.
Time to check the results of this first action. Go to the app and click on the task. This opens the right panel view. Click on the Attachments tab, and there is your link! If you click on it, you will be taken to the page with the search results from before. Very cool.
Note: You may need to refresh your browser to see the addition.
5. Complete your research
I click on a promising search result and start reading. This article lists Seattle as a top city for bike riders. I like the text saying what makes Seattle a top pick. See below.
I now click the extension icon, make sure to check the box next to “Save selected text in task notes,” and click OK. Here’s what this looks like in the task. On the left, you see the text I highlighted with the title of the article. On the right, you see the associated URL. Ta-da! Research documented. And, if you need to determine which link goes with which text, just match the titles.
6. Adding documents
I repeat the process until I have enough information for the article. I decided to grab some maps for the article and found one for Boulder, CO. I download it to my PC. That’s fine, but why put it in a separate location from the task? BubblesPlanner allows me to store the map with the task.
To do this, I click on the task to open the right panel view then click on the Attachments tab. There I click on the +Add/Edit button. See below. That opens the attachment pop up where I browse to the location of the document on my PC and click OK.
7. Using Boards to group related tasks
Another way you can use BubblesPlanner is to group all your research tasks in a single Board. I do this for each client that hires me to write content. If the task holding everything related to research is helpful, this feature is incredible. Rather than search through myriad tasks for the right one, open the client’s Board. It will all be there, waiting for you.
Adding a task to a Board is easy. I click on the task and select the Organization tab in the right panel view. There I click on the +Add link under Boards, scroll to the Board I want to assign the task to, click the circle, and then click OK. Done. There will be more about Boards in the future as it is a topic worthy of its own article.
8. Share your research with others
You can share individual tasks with people easily. That too is a topic for another article. Referring to the preceding graphic, to Share a task with someone, click on the +Add link below Shared with: (yellow arrow). A dialog will pop up where you select the person from your contact list (inside the BubblesPlanner app). They get an email inviting them to share the content of the task. It is read-only; they cannot change anything.
If you want to have someone do some of the work related to the task, follow the same procedure as for sharing by clicking the Change under Assigned to: (yellow arrow). They can modify and work with the content. They cannot change anything on the Organization tab. In fact, they won’t even see that tab.
You can also share a Board. Say you wrap up a major project for a client. As part of your deliverables, you provide them with access to the project’s Board. Now they can look back over your work when they want or need to. In this situation, you turn the Board into a Collection, and you can share through a variety of channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even plain old email.
The combination of BubblesPlanner and its Chrome extension are a robust research and knowledge base creation tool. It has made my research more efficient and easily saves an hour off the time it takes to research and then write an article. That’s an hour I can use for other paying projects.
Find out for yourself at www.bubblesplanner.com. You’ll be pleased with the results.