Research Organization


1. You do not have enough time in my busy life to have trouble finding a note, a piece of paper, an email, a computer file, an idea—or to spend time recreating them when they are lost. In other words, nobody has time not to be organized!

2. Do a favor to yourself-in-the-future. (Analogy: It feels better to come home after a day's work and not find dirty dishes that you left in the sink that morning.)

3. Work towards an OHIO office = Only Handle It Once.


1. Carry a notebook with you at all times. Use the book—not pieces of paper—to write notes on. Number the pages and make a table of contents so you can locate these notes later. If you do much of your work on a computer, still carry a notebook for Freewriting, thoughts, and leads that arise away from the computer. If you find it hard to make space for reflection you should stay, say, ten minutes after any session or meeting with an advisor to write while your thoughts are fresh.

2. On the different computers you use and for storage in the cloud have the same arrangement of folders (or directories) and folders within folders, etc. Save files within some folder, not left loose on the desktop. Transfer attachments from wherever they reside into the appropriate folder if you want to keep them. Backup to an external hard drive (every few months) and/or to a flash drive (daily) in case your computer and the cloud both fail (see principle #2 above). Synchronization software allows you to select which files to backup.

3. Email is the most difficult aspect of online life, in part because of spam and solicitations, in part because one's inbox mixes so many different kinds of communication, in part because it distracts us from focused use of our time, and in part because many people have woeful email etiquette. Organize email folders in the same structure as your regular files (see Tip #2 above). Take note of guidelines for Making Time and Taking the Time and for E-etiquette in email-mediated interaction.

4. Keep your ears and eyes open to good ideas (e.g., CCT 2014), but customize the development of your Research Organization to your own situation and foibles. To this end, use a worksheet based on the table below to take stock of your research organization and report on it to get feedback from your advisor and others:

a. Spend some time to fill in (or update) the table below, then mark with a * five new things that you plan to implement in the next five weeks. (Making a longer “to do” list makes it more likely that no one thing gets addressed conscientiously.)


of materials on paper.........
of computer files & records...........
Things that I do that are good (+)
or that I avoid as inefficient (-)

Suggestions of others about good (+)
and inefficient (-) practices

b. Append the following information when you ask for feedback from your advisor on your Research Organization:
  • Organization of your computer files. (Be as specific as possible in listing the directory or folder structure you are using.)
  • Organization of your paper files. (Be as specific as possible in listing the sections you are dividing your material into and how you are using any other notebook or Personal and Professional Development Workbook.)

    CCT (Critical and Creative Thinking Program) (2014). “Research and study competencies.” (viewed 1 Dec 2014)