Quick! You’ve just discovered that you have a free day to research. What will you work on? Will you have to spend a significant amount of time reminding yourself what you were working on last? Ready to move on to a new ancestor, but not sure where to start?
You need a research plan that you can pick up on the spur of the moment that will tell you exactly what you were hoping to look for. A research plan allows you to keep track of questions you’d like to answer, where you’ve searched and what you found – very similar to a research log, but more focused on keeping track of the questions and how you plan to answer them.

I use Excel to keep my research plans. I have one tab for each person or couple. I have basic vital information at the top of the log along with a visual aid to help me remember which County I should be researching in at any specific point in time. I love using Excel for this because I can add or delete lines as needed, everything stays nicely lined up and I can hide or reveal different lines to help me save space or to help me focus on a single question at a time. I can add color to text or to cells if I want to make something stand out.


In the main section of the plan, I type in the question(s) that I’d like to research. Below each question, I make a list of resources that I’d like to look at. And below each resource, I tell what I did (looked at index, skimmed through, looked at each page, etc) and what I found, even if I found nothing because I don’t want to waste time repeating a search I’ve already spent time on. And it’s so easy to work on with small chunks of free time!

So today’s Snack is to create a Research Plan document. Feel free to download mine, if you like using Excel. I plan to write a longer post tomorrow about using the Research Plan Excel file. As future Snacks bring new questions or resources to mind, you’ll have the perfect place to keep track of them so they’ll be ready when you have time for a bigger “meal” of research time. Be sure to keep it in a location that you can get to no matter where you happen to be when you have a little free time!