There are five related steps to take to get good results from your research. We create a specific question to be answered, a research plan using the question, a research log, and a research report. Optionally we create a biographical sketch from information in the research report.
Steps to Create a Research Question
First, we craft a question to answer. Use these four elements: who, where, when, and what, to focus on specific items that you want to learn more about. Being as specific as you can goes a long way toward getting reliable results from your research.
Steps to Create a Research Plan
Next, we examine the research question and gather more information about the subject we are interested in. We find sources relevant to the person, place, and time span involved. Sources such as locality guides, histories, and archives catalogs can provide good results for further searches.
Steps to Create a Research Log
After we have looked into each of the record types in the research plan, we can start actively searching for the best records available to us. We want to focus on relevant records that are likely to answer the research question. Prioritize the research items to gather information from the easiest to the hardest and organize your research plan accordingly.
Steps to Create a Research Report
When we have completely researched the question, we can then create the research report. I am a fan of the write as you cite method. This means when I am researching, I am also drafting parts of the research report. It is not a step back, but it is not a speedy process either. Take time to really look at the records and save time in the long run so you do not have to go back and revisit them.
Steps to Create a Biographical Sketch
The final element of great research is to make a biographical sketch. There are many ways to create a sketch. I have written a few posts about this topic, but one of the recommended ways is to use the NEHGS Register style. Whole books have been written about writing a family history sketch, so I will leave that choice to you.