I set out to research the families of my direct ancestors and four generations of their descendants. (Unless I'm hoping we might find a little DNA.)
_The Master Genealogist_ (TMG) has a "witness" feature, by which one can record associated persons. I might use that feature to add say an estate administrator, someone not known to be related.
In the 1990s, I consistently entered sources to a research log, including record abstractions and notes. I used Microsoft Word for that purpose because of the ability to add specific formatting, tables and images.
When I started working with Massachusetts town records, I used a Lotus 1-2-3 to compile research log information from indexes to those materials.I used those materials to sort information by dates, towns, county and indexed parents’ names. I used the sorted information to refine my interests and prioritize research for more original materials. (I later did the same thing for Vermont and New Hampshire vital records, most of which I clipped from extracted IGI records back then.)
For the most part, my research now is limited to known relations. When I research otherwise, I usually end up learning much about someone else's family member(s). As to brick walls, I research a known relative more and more, hoping information about them will lead me to the unknown. In the worst case, I’ll end up learning even more about those I know, which is always a good thing in my book.
I use the FamilyHistory Library online catalog (http://www.familysearch.org/eng/library/fhlcatalog/supermainframeset.asp?display=localitysearch&columns=*,0,0) to identify sources I may have overlooked. FamilyHistory101.com is another site I’ve used extensively. I contact state and local libraries and archives in an area to find out area specific materials and unpublished family files. I’ve worked extensively with both the New Hampshire and New Jersey “state papers.”
When I find a source of information, I’ll usually try to find other sources that might be about information in the first source. (Learning more about not just known persons, but known events.)
I am most familiar with TMG, but far from an expert.
I’ve learned to take the time to enter my sources to TMG’s “Master Source List” and to develop a citation and source list style. In the 1990's I used Family Tree Maker; I recorded most of my source and research materials in the old FTM "notes" area.
TMG's "source types" are made up of three templates that match common genealogical needs for first and second reference notes and the bibliographic entry. See http://tmg.reigelridge.com/Sources-Templates.htm
The templates are built from "source elements" (such as Author, Title, Publisher, etc.). Users can develop their own template and I usually do. There is a finite number of available "Real Source Elements"/”Source Groups.” Users can create custom source elements, but those are alias for the Real Source Elements. See http://tmg.reigelridge.com/elements.htm
Only about 14 identifiable real source elements can be used in any one template. (The entry screen developed by the template only has 14 spots for user entry.)
To expand a template beyond the entry screen, you can refer to entries in fields "citation detail," or "citation memo," or "source memo." The three mentioned fields can actually be "split" into as many as 10 fields each (CD1, CD2, etc.). This "splitting" method requires separating the field input with double pipes. The program includes "reminder windows" into which users can record which "split" field is intended for which kind of data.
At the introduction, I imagine TMG’s source methodology was ahead of it’s time. For modern purposes, however, I often have to group elements into those 14 fields to fit my style. Other times, I just have to get creative. Sometimes the “page” field GEDCOM might read is actually a page number; other times, it’s my entry for “digital image” (reference note) or “Digital image” (bibliography). For another source, that “page field” might read, “supplied by XXX, 13 November 2000; held by XXX, XXX, 2002.”
I'm not the only user who feels TMG's Real Source Elements" have outlived their usefulness, but I rather believe that issue is related to old GEDCOM.
When I originally enter information for a given footnote, it’s usually long. I’m not just commenting about where I located the information; I include comments about the information (often abstractions) and comments related to separate sources I’ve already entered. Sometimes I’ll include a comment that references another source.
Contrary to what others have said, I find there are plenty of places in TMG to abstract ordinary information from a source. What is missing is the ability to format material well, including entering information in tabular form. For those needs, I turn to my word processor and/or spreadsheet program. I have the same opinion regarding proof arguments and conflict notes.
Hope this helps.