I was thinking of going old-school and using a large piece of chart paper the size of my bedroom wall to organize my research data, but decided to look for a digital solution first since so much of my data is in digital form.
Also, I can’t exactly carry around a wall of information with me when my research and writing takes me outside of my apartment.
After some research, I decided to go with Tufts University’s Visual Understanding Environment (VUE) program since it’s geared towards academics and is very easy to use.
I’ve said elsewhere that I’m currently working on a chapter on murders involving white women and Chinese servants. As you can imagine, these cases attracted a huge amount of public attention, and were quite complex with many moving parts, with tons of rumors and innuendo, and a strange and varied cast of characters.
In the course of my research, I quickly discovered that I needed some visual way to organize all my information. Large blocks of text and lengthy outlines do you no good in giving you the big picture, nor are they useful for showing relationships.
I’m continually adding to and adjusting the visual map above as I continue to process and organize all the information I’ve collected.
There’s something very satisfying about visual mapping. It’s certainly something I think more academics should be doing.