July 31, 2016

Open Thread: How Do You Organize Source Material?

As many of you know, I’m working on a mini book about LinkedIn for Rockable Press. Unlike my ebook, this project involves interviewing others so I can compile case studies. I’m no stranger to interviewing sources but this project is like interviews on steroids, so I’m finding it challenging to organize all that source material and figure out where the holes are.

With shorter projects like articles, I’ll figure out what types of sources and how many sources I need based on the assignment and word count, then find appropriate sources, interview them, and write the piece. Wash, rinse, repeat. I also include source lists with each article I file and refer back to my source list when the article comes out so I can notify sources.
The system I’ve worked out for this project is a bit more complicated. I created Gmail label for all my email correspondence relating to the book and an Excel spreadsheet that lists source’s names and areas of expertise so I can keep them all straight. But it’s tricky figuring out where to use what information and remembering “oh, yeah, and So and So had a great story about this feature” or “I still need to find a spot to mention So and So’s really juicy tip.”
How do you organize source material? Have you found it challenging to move from shorter piece to longer manuscripts? Do tell!
Flickr photo courtesy of A3sthetix


  1. Debra Stang says:

    I'm not the world's greatest organizer by any stretch of the imagination, but when I did my last book length project, I got a folder, completed a contact sheet for each person I interviewed, and attached any transcribed notes, email correspondence, etc. to the contact sheet. I then kept the contact sheets in alphabetical order, but I could just as easily have done it by chapter or topic. Good luck to you, and good luck with your book!

  2. Carrie Anne Schmeck says:

    If you have a general outline of chapters or topics, make folders for these. When you input your source material and notes, save them to the topic folders. Add a note to remind you what point they made that you wanted to include in that section. (You might save one interview/source to several folders.)