The research journal is (or will be) your most useful tool and companion in your research journey. All experienced researchers know the value of documenting everything - from how you decided on your research topic, to research goal setting, to your search strategy, coding approach and finally writing up. The more you write, the better.
Why you need to keep a good journal:
1. Your Research Journal provides you with an audit trail for your project – use it to document your thoughts, your reasoning, what conclusions your drew from your data analysis, and why you made the decisions that you did.
2. It also serves as a discussion tool when you meet with your professor or supervisor.
3. Your research journal will keep you on track should you get lost in your research journey. Reading back through your notes will help you get back on track.
4. The more you document in your research journal, the easier it will be for you to justify your decisions and approach as it provides transparency for your project - your professors will want to know how you analysed the data and how you came to your conclusions.
5. It doesn’t need to be fancy – record a few notes a day if you’re pressed for time. Use it to note down ideas you want to explore later. The sentence structure doesn’t need to be perfect is it’s just your own notes for yourself – no one else will see it.
6. Keeping a research journal will get you into the habit of writing every day. This will help you immensely when it comes to writing up your paper. You’ll likely find that your words will flow more easily as you’ve gotten used to writing.
7. There’s nothing like writing things down to bring clarity to your thoughts – try it and see!
The best tool we recommend for keeping your research journal is the Memo section of NVivo. We like it because:
· You can copy and paste your data analysis queries into your NVivo journal. Created an enlightening Word Cloud? Put it in your journal. Found some interesting links in your Word Tree? Copy and paste it into your journal.
· You can import and link your research papers to your journal. This is really useful for keeping track of papers that you’re referencing.
· You can keep your entire research project in one place.
For each journal entry, make it a habit to capture 3 key things:
Make a note of the tasks for that day - (e.g. import literature, run queries on interviews).
What you actually did (e.g. what key words you used in your search) and what the results were, why you scoped it the way you did, what assumptions you made, what worked and what didn’t.
Plan your tasks for next time.