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Your research may produce complex or even contradictory results about the best sources for your story. Build up a ‘contacts tree’ or mind-map until you find the people you need. For the planning process, you should make an advance list of the sources that you will use to obtain both evidence and background information.

On your mind-map, draw arrows to connect sources and intend background expertise with findings that support them. Draw other kinds of connections – for example, jagged lines – between pieces of evidence that introduce contradictions or puzzles. Contradictions are often the most fruitful, explore these – constantly asking ‘Why?’ – and you will find that the story idea grows not only legs, but wings! However, investigations take time and require a lot of patience. While one can easily get frustrated, it is important to stay focused on the subject and remain guided by the core role of journalism: serving as the watchdog of society and offering a voice to the voiceless.

Mark Hunter and Luuk Sengers provided the following hints on effective data mapping and keeping story information organized:

  • >   Create a chronology that describes events (dates, places, who was there, what was said, what was done); keep this information in a consistent format so you can instantly find the facts you need
  • >   Create a list of sources with their contact details (and keep this information secure)
  • >   Create a to-do list of people who might know something about the project and whom you still need to contact, with their contact details
  • >   Draw up diagrams of the relationships between the various people involved
  • >   Make a list of key documents, indicating those you have and those you still need
  • >   Index your documents, and if you work with a computer, create hypertext links to full electronic versions
  • >   Highlight facts that have been firmly established
  • >   Note the status of other information you have
  • >   Always keep a notebook with you to jot down ideas