Writing for Discovery: 
A Genealogy Mindset Makeover

Writing is not what we do AFTER we’ve figured it out, writing is HOW we figure it out.

Research is fun. Writing is hard. 

Are we ever REALLY "ready to write"?

When many of us sit down to write a client report, family history, or proof argument, we visualize how our final product should look and be organized. Panic sets in as we worry that our work won't look and sound the way we think it should. We confuse “writing” with “presentation”—assembling our evidence and proof into a final product that will satisfy whatever audience will be reading and evaluating it. This preoccupation with the final version of our proof argument can interfere with the equally important discovery process, where we learn what it is that we want to say.

Growing up, I never imagined myself as a writer. With each new assignment, letter, or essay, I struggled to commit even the first few words to paper without erasing them a minute later. Perfectionism and rough drafts don't coexist in mutual bliss...

Even after years of blogging about genealogy for About.com tempered my dread of writing, I still struggled to write as I researched rather than saving it until the end. Is the research ever really done? Are we really ever ready to write?

Then my cognitive science background kicked in. I remembered that writing is more than just putting ideas into words—it's problem solving. As genealogists we should be writing not only to communicate, but also to ask questions, discover what we are thinking, generate ideas, and even argue with ourselves before committing to a conclusion. Writing isn't something we do AFTER we’ve figured it out, writing is HOW we figure it out. Writing for discovery is the all important first step to becoming a confident writer. With that foundation in place, the drafts, and final "polish" become much less daunting...

Writing for Discovery: A Genealogy Mindset Makeover

This 7-week, hands-on, all-in, online workshop will meet you wherever you are in your writing journey and give you the skills and confidence to make writing a regular habit rather than something you dread. Through a mix of pre-recorded instruction, hands-on exercises, a writing project, and personalized feedback you'll learn methods for writing as you research and how to incorporate writing as an essential part of your problem-solving process. How to get more done and waste less time. And while the biggest focus of the class is writing for discovery, we'll also delve into writing up your research to share with others -- how to find your writing rhythm, organize your evidence, weed out the clutter, and choose the best words. For those who want to participate, the course also includes a peer-review component and optional co-working/accountability sessions.

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Here’s What You’ll Get When You Sign Up!

Pre-recorded instructional lessons focused on each stage of the writing process

Work through the videos and writing activities at a time and pace that's convenient for you.

Six live Q&A group coaching sessions 

Live Q&A group coaching sessions facilitate continued learning as you work to apply the lessons from each week. Can't make a session? No problem! These will be recorded and questions can be submitted in advance.

Six optional co-working / accountability writing sessions

Meet weekly on Zoom with Kimberly and fellow classmates for sessions focused on getting writing done. Blocked time and accountability can be big motivators!

Monitored private Facebook group

In addition to the weekly Q&A sessions and instructional class time, there will also be a private Facebook group for class discussions, questions, and sharing.

Course Outline

Writing for Discovery
  • Writing as Thinking
  • Memory & Recall
  • Taking Good Notes
  • Overcoming Overwhelm
  • Note-Taking Options: Research logs, Research notes/reports, Note-taking apps, Zettelkasten and Connected notes
  • Organization & Note-Taking Strategies
Writing as Problem Solving
  • Memory Exercise
  • Why Processing Aids Retrieval
  • Improving Notes Over Time
  • Folders vs. Tags/Keywords/Labels
  • Designing Notes
  • Using Color and Emphasis
  • Tools & Methods for Correlating Evidence
Writing as a Journey
  • Prewriting: Freewriting/Looping, Brainstorming/Listing, Journalistic Questions, Tables & Charts, Clustering & Mapping, Timelines
  • Organizing & Assembling Evidence: Clustering (Subquestions/Topic Sentences), Outlining, Argument Mapping, Sequencing Options
  • The Wonderful Mess of the Rough First Draft
  • From Prewriting to Rough Draft: An Example
  • How to Avoid the 3 P's: Perfectionism, Procrastination, and Paralysis
  • The 4-Step Writing Process
Writing as Communication
  • Writing to Figure Out What We Want to Say
  • Writing to Learn
  • Write in Stages
  • Writing as We Research – Why and How
  • Methods for Organizing Writing
  • Revision: The First Pass, Paragraphs, Sentences
  • Strategies to Move Our Writing Forward

Writing as a Process
  • The Process of Revision, Editing, and Proofreading
  • Self-Editing Tips & Strategies
  • Cutting Clutter & Removing Redundancies
  • Choosing Better Words
  • Tips for Finding Grammar & Spelling Errors

About the instructor, 

Kimberly T. Powell

Kimberly is a professional genealogist, author, and educator specializing in genealogical writing, land records, DNA, and solving complex problems. She is a past President of the Association of Professional Genealogists and served as the Genealogy Expert for About.com for sixteen years. She is the author of several books, including most recently "The Challenge of Endogamy and Pedigree Collapse" in Advanced Genetic Genealogy: Techniques and Case Studies and The Everything Guide to Online Genealogy, 3rd edition. 

Kimberly is on the faculty at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP), the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR), and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), as well as for Boston University’s online genealogy programs. With Harold Henderson, she developed and taught for five years a popular institute course on writing proof arguments, “From Confusion to Conclusion.” Her personal and professional research focus is families with roots in the southeastern US and southwestern PA.


What others have to say about their experience...

"Since my original BCG application, the idea of being reviewed has been terrifying and nerve-wracking. The techniques and strategies I learned in the Writing for Discovery course have enabled me to write client (and my own) research reports quickly and efficiently. I have also learned that peer review is something that helps me improve and grow as a genealogist making renewal submission to BCG easier and also enabling me to seriously consider finally achieving one of my major goals – submission to NGSQ."

~Susan Michael (BCG certification successfully renewed, November 2021)

“Kimberly is such a great instructor. Her Writing for Discovery workshop gave me important tips and techniques to improve my writing as well as peer evaluation experience. But beyond all that, the course helped me reach a point where I actually enjoy the writing process and feel confident with the quality of my proof writing. That NGSQ submission is within my grasp. If you are ready to take your writing up to the next level, this is the workshop for you!”

~Skip Duett

"This course helped me to develop the discipline of daily writing which greatly enhanced my ability to more quickly see gaps in my research, to see weaknesses in my analysis, and to develop the ability to write without stopping to look something up or research a rabbit hole. The constructive input from my peers helped me see my writing from different points of view. The guidance provided by Kimberly was invaluable."

~Suzanne C. Matson

"Kimberly's Writing for Discovery series was a highlight of my educational opportunities this past year. She walked us through valuable topics, such as constructing a logical argument; efficient use of research logs; note taking strategies; document and word-processing programs; and many others. She also built a safe space for our group of writers to ask questions, receive constructive feedback on our work, and hold ourselves accountable. Whether you are a beginner or seasoned writer, you will find Kimberly's original content and the group support invaluable." 

~Jen Grinnell

"Kimberly Powell is a born educator who empowers her students to challenge themselves as learners, writers, and researchers. Genealogical style is different from other kinds of writing and the Writing for Discovery course gave me the boost I was looking for to become a better and more confident genealogy writer. In my book, the value of the course has been 'priceless'."

~Denise May Levenick

Register now for Writing for Discovery, 25 September – 10 November, 2022. Class size is limited to 30 students. Cost $397. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the schedule for the Writing for Discovery course?

How much time should I expect to spend on the course each week?

What if I am not able to attend a session live?

What do I need to be prepared for the Writing for Discovery course?

What guarantee do I have that this course will work for me?

What workshops will you be adding in the future?

One Final Note...

I help genealogists who love research but dread writing cut through the confusion, insecurity, and clutter so they can present their genealogical conclusions for family, clients, or publication with confidence. Will you join me on this writing workshop journey? 

Register now for Writing for Discovery, 25 September – 10 November, 2022. Class size is limited to 30 students. Cost $397.