Monday, 23 February 2015

Genealogy Do-Over Week 5

The Genealogy Do-Over Week 5 tasks were:
1) Building a Research Toolbox and
2) Citing Sources

Thomas MacEntee is clearly keen on the idea of every researcher having a "consolidated research toolbox filled with various tools such as historical value of money calculators, links to historical newspaper sites, etc".  And I can see the advantages of increasing one's efficiency by being able to go straight to a particular "tool", (ie website), rather than having to spend time looking for a suitable one, and risking being sidetracked by all the other possibilities found en route, or becoming frustrated by not finding a suitable resource.

I know my mother had such a research toolbox, as I was going through some paperwork recently and found it.  She wrote information and useful websites into an address book:

But I must admit to being somewhat ambivalent about the idea of maintaining such a toolbox myself.  Whilst I used to bookmark particularly helpful, or unusual/interesting, web sites, these days I can usually find what I want using Google in less time than it takes me to even remember I have such a site bookmarked, yet alone remember where I listed it! 

Would things be better if I made sure my list was organised?  Perhaps, but I don't believe in reinventing the wheel and, with the existence of sites such as Cyndi's List at http://www.cyndislist.com/ , there seems little point in trying to produce a list myself.  

Maybe my view would be different if I was only researching my own family, and therefore concentrating on a particular region, or regularly returning to the same records.  But, with the one-name study, research could lead in any direction, so I am unlikely to have been able to anticipate which tools I need before a particular need arises.

It occurs to me that the research log, which I am (supposed to be J  ) keeping, will list all the sites that I have searched - so there's a sense that, as long as the log is completed as I research, and it is easily searchable, then it will meet the need of enabling me to re-find that really useful site I remember coming across.  And one of my intentions for my new ONS web site is to have a list of sources, with their general citation details and some information regarding the reliability (or otherwise) of the source, a bit like a bibliography but with added notes.  So this would also build up to become a form of toolbox.

And so I am not going to specifically create a toolbox now, but perhaps one will develop over time, and I shall then be able to see how useful it becomes.

I am quite "late" posting this, as I wanted to make sure I had actually carried out the part 2 activity, which was to read Chapters 1 and 2 of "Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace".  I bought a download of this book last year, and had started to read it but decided a refresher of those chapters would be a good idea.  Anyone who has studied to a reasonably high level, and carried out research projects, will know the importance of citing sources.  Some people doing the Do-Over seem to have been quite stressed about the 'correct' construction of citations - but there are several different formats in general use, depending on what type of research one is doing, or where it is being published.  So, rather than worrying about all the little nuances, I find it easiest to just remember the main point - that the citation should enable anyone else to find the documents I used for my research.  

Hopefully, that should be sufficient while I am getting into the habit of always quoting the sources for everything I do, and I can refine how I am actually writing them once I get more proficient at remembering to add them in the first place!

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