Keeping a Career Research Binder

People keep journals for many reasons: to keep a history of their lives; to record stories and poems; and to get the chatter inside their head out of their mind and on paper. And sometimes, research. Research and notebooks go hand and hand, it seems. At least it does for me. I have many three-ring binders filled with various magazine clippings, web page and graphical printouts; and articles about the many topics I'm interested in. Sometimes, however, people keep journals of their own work history.

One of the biggest notebooks that I keep is the one I keep for my career as a technical writer. I store all sorts of things in this binder: from notes about my jobs to articles taken from various trade publications like the Society of Technical Communication. I also have sections for productivity tips and techniques and links to useful grammar and writing websites. Basically, I stuff anything I feel I can use in my career over a long term goes into this binder.

My current career binder has 8 sections. Each with its own plastic tab divider. This helps me organize and find articles and bits of information faster. If you're interested in keeping a binder for any of your interests (or for your career) you might want to consider keeping the following sections:

Contacts/Networking Keep a list of people. You meet people at work, at parties, and conventions. Use this section to list important contacts and keep information about how you might be able to help this contact or what they can do for you. If you're looking for a new job, you might also want to keep a running list of who you applied for, what position, the date you applied and how you sent your information to them.

Resume History Use this section to build up a history of all the jobs you've had at work. I keep a list of achievements for each company I've worked for so that I can bring them together in my resume and portfolio. I also keep some key pieces of writing I've done for each client in this section as well. (Get permission from your clients before taking proprietary information with you. So far, I've had no issues with getting permission to take samples of my work to use in my portfolios.)

General Work articles The internet is like a gigantic magazine. It's got a lot of good articles and blog postings on just about any topic imaginable. When I come across an article or blog post that strikes a particular nerve with me, and I know I'm going to use this article for a long time, I print it out. I've got quite a collection of articles and essays relating to stress management, organization techniques, productivity enhancements, etc. I flip through these articles occasionally so that they remind me how to balance my life.

Discipline Specific articles This section is very similar to my General Work articles section, however it serves a different focus. I keep articles on technical writing techniques, XML, index creation, etc. in this section. Anything that I feel is useful to help advance my writing style and processes goes into this section. I've been known to use these materials to help others understand the processes and procedures I'm working on or trying to implement in my organizations as well.

Keeping a binder of useful information that relates to your career and work history can help you create stronger ties to your career path. It can show your history of where you came from and where you want to go to, as well as keep various tips and tricks that may help make your life on the job easier.

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Computerized notebook

Research notebooks are actually something I've been thinking about lately. Because I have a science degree, I have been taught that keeping a research notebook is a good idea. Although I am not really good at keeping a notebook, I do realize the value in them. The only problem is, I would like the flexibility of a digital notebook, such has having an index of topics. So as much as I like having an analog notebook, I have been attempting to use an electronic notebook as of late. I looked at OneNote, Evernote, and a couple of other options, but have found that OOo.org writer actually has some nice features. In writer, I can add pictures, an index, a table of contents, tables, equations - essentially anything I need. I found that the other programs couldn't do equations, which is a big feature for me. I am still working on how exactly to organize the notebook, but it's been working out great for me. The thing I like more about an electronic notebook is that I can just copy and paste what I need, and add hyperlinks. The thing I don't like is that I don't have a material notebook. But I can just print it out if need be. Does anyone have any thoughts on this system? I'd also be interested to hear what other people have used as far as integrating electronic and analog notebooks, or just using an analog notebook in a digital world.

Google's Notebook

I have been using Google's Notebook and played with Zotero. I like having an organized trail of websites and readings that I can get to quickly from any computer---at home or in my office. That said, I also take notes from readings in a Circa Notebook and I keep a notebook for every subject I teach.

sporter
"To fly, we must have resistance."

Trunk Loads

I have had this habit since my school days. I have trunks full of clippings on subjects that interest me - Economics, Music, Radio and Shortwave Listening, Philately, Numismatics and General Trivia. I have pasted some of these on sheets of A4 paper and filed them neatly while others are just stuffed in envelopes. I go back to these trunks to research a topic or to quote something in the articles that I write. I also have all my journals that I used at work in the last 15 years. I do have several scrap books as well. All of these along with my planners and my insatiable appetite for buying books take up an enormous space at home. Some of this stuff lie at home in Bangalore while the more recent stuff I keep with me in Chennai (Madras). Of late I use FireFox 3.0 with the ScrapBook extension to file away information. Its convenient since it makes a copy of the webpage on your local hard disc.