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Elizabeth Shown Mills

Member Since 01 Jul 2006
Offline Last Active Jul 28 2012 08:14 AM

Posts I've Made

In Topic: Citations for Notes

21 July 2012 - 04:46 PM

Mike, thank you for your appeal and your thoughtful explanation of why we need the ability to footnote assertions that we make within our "note" fields--not only the note field attached to our sentences, but also within our Research Notes and Comments.

Tom and LJ rightly point out that we can embed parenthetical citations. That is the workaround I've used. But a narrative or a report that uses footnotes for some citations and parenthetical cites for others appears quirky or inconsistent to say the least.

Linda mentions a work sample that I offered a couple of years ago on TGF--a Research Notes "report" for William Cooksey that I created using RM and then spit-polished in Word. For those who are interested in a more convenient example (one that won't require you to wait on me to answer e-mail <g>), there is a similar example posted at the Association of Professional Genealogists website. At http://www.apgen.org/resources/worksamples.html, choose the third option, "Research Notes ... ."

As you will see there on various pages (p. 13, for example), my notes are a mish-mash of both footnotes and embedded notes. While I "prettied up" this report in Word, using Word to convert embedded citations to footnotes and then renumber everything is rarely feasible, timewise.

RM's creation of this Research Notes report has advanced it considerably past other programs in its reporting capability. Giving us the ability to footnote assertions made in our "Research Notes" AND in the notes attached to our sentences would be another major step forward.

Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

In Topic: Detail Notes

29 May 2012 - 01:22 PM

"Research Notes" do not describe the same thing as "Detail Text" - which is a TRANSCRIPTION, EXTRACTION, or TEXT, that are literal copies of the text.
The fact is, "notes", as defined by the dictionary, belong under comments because that's what they are.
>A "note" belongs under "comments' and not under the newly renamed "Research Notes" field which, as you also noted, should contain a transcription, extraction, or text from the actual document. Other information is appropriately placed under "comments". The terms "comments" and "notes" are synonymous.


One of the unique difficulties we face in the field of genealogy is the fact that most practitioners come into the field from other disciplines, rather than being trained historians. Different fields, as a rule, have their own customs, standards, and terminology. Each has developed principles and practices that work best for the kind of work they do. That diverse background is one of the reasons that so many genealogists have difficulty agreeing on a common vocabulary. It is natural for each of us, when we come into genealogy, to bring with us the mindset in which we are professionally trained.

Meanwhile, genealogy is a form of history. It relies heavily upon original historical documents and historical analyses. Thus, it is rooted in the practices and terminology that prevail in the field of history.

The generic dictionary definitions you have posted are the standard ones we learned in junior high when we first wrote term papers from published books and articles. We were taught to read an author's words or opinions, then summarize them on note cards. We might use an occasional quotation, but otherwise we were expected to put that summary in our own words. Our teachers taught us to call those "notes." They were indeed "notes." But they were "notes" at the most basic level.

If, in college and grad school, we choose to become historians then our perspective and our research methodology will expand considerably beyond that point. Historical researchers who work heavily with original records will accumulate "research notes" in many forms. We still summarize and paraphrase in many cases—especially when working from monographs and articles that involve more opinions than facts. With other resources, we may abstract. We may extract. We may transcribe. We may translate. We may photocopy. The form of capture that we choose with each source will reflect the degree of precision that we feel is necessary. But the information we capture in all these formats constitute our "research notes."

When we work from original documents, we also have a frequent need to analyze. In those situations, we need to ensure that our thoughts and hypotheses about those original documents are expressed separately from the actual details provided in the original documents.

RM 5 provides us with the ability to do thoughtful, careful, and accurate notetaking within history's traditional framework. Under "Research Notes" we may record whatever type of research notes we feel is appropriate to the case at hand—paraphrases, abstracts, extracts, transcripts, translations, or whatever. Under "Comments" we may add all sorts of observations about the data that the original record offers or the deficiencies or flaws within the record itself.

RM5's capability for recording our research findings is now the most precise and the most flexible of all the programs currently marketed. That, IMO, is far more important than whether we would prefer "this word" or "that word" on a particular tab.

In Topic: Is RM5 adopting Elizabeth Shown Mills' Book?

02 December 2011 - 09:34 PM

>Whether or not one agrees with the second part is what seems to be the discussion here. I'm glad for this thread though as it has given me a lot to think about.

That's one of the most wonderful things about genealogy. There's never a shortage of things to think about. :)

In Topic: Is RM5 adopting Elizabeth Shown Mills' Book?

02 December 2011 - 08:48 PM

>Please enlighten us as to the PURPOSE of citing sources - your book of 885 pages is filled with examples of citations! It the PURPOSE of citing sources goes beyond "where you found your stuff", then what does that entail?

Hmhh. To be technical, much of the page space is not "filled with examples of citations." In keeping with the book's title, Evidence Explained, a great deal of it consists of discussions of sources (including many sources that many genealogists aren't aware of), record organization, citation problems, and evidence analysis. The first two chapters (90 pages) cover fundamentals of citation and evidence analysis.

Right now, I confess, I'm struggling trying to decide how to answer your question in some way other than what all those discussions say, given that you obviously have EE. In fact, I've been struggling with this all day. I haven't really been ignoring the long and thoughtful posts you made earlier. I've just had difficulty deciding how to answer you without violating my original intent not to discuss EE. Posted Image

So now, I give up and do just that. At this point, it seems to be the cleanest way to reexplain what I tried explaining earlier in different words. This is a quote from EE's preface:

"At the root of everything we find in history is a source. The information we pull from a source will not likely be any better than the source itself. The conclusions we reach from it can be no better than the effort we have made to identify that source, to understand its nuances, and to interpret the evidence its information provides.

Evidence Explained is a guidebook for all who explore history and seek to piece together its surviving bits and shards. As a guide, it is built on one basic thought:

We cannot judge the reliability of any information unless we know
exactly where the information came from; and
• the strengths and weaknesses of that source.

As students, when we were introduced to research principles, we may have been told that identifying sources is important for two reasons. First, we provide "proof" for what we write. Second, we enable others to find what we have used. Both purposes are valid, but they miss the most critical point of all:

We identify our sources—and their strengths and weaknesses—so we can reach the most reliable conclusions.

As a guidebook, Evidence Explained has two goals. Obviously, it provides citation models for most source types of history—especially original materials not covered by classic citation guides. Beyond that, it can help us understand each type of record and identify each in such detail that we and our readers will know not only where to go to find our source but, equally important, the nature of that source so that the evidence can be better interpreted and the accuracy of our conclusions can be appraised.

In this regard, Evidence Explained differs radically from most citation manuals. Traditional guides emphasize output—the bare essentials needed, at publication, to identify sources while minimizing publication costs. Evidence Explained focuses upon input, identifying the information researchers should record in the research stage—not just the basics for an eventual identification of the source but all the details essential to textual criticism, thorough analyses, and sound conclusions."

>You also mentioned that the "real point of source identification is that we need to know our source", are you inferring that source identification is the same thing as a citation? If not, how do they differ?

Yes, a citation is an identification of the source. The Great Debate among researchers, writers, editors, and publishers boils down to How much identification is needed? As researchers, IMO, we need a great deal of identification in our working notes, to help us reach the best conclusions. At publishing time, we then strip that down to meet editorial or publishing demands--most of which are governed by personal preference, tradition within a field or at a particular press, and publication budgets.


In Topic: Is RM5 adopting Elizabeth Shown Mills' Book?

02 December 2011 - 07:45 PM

>It seems most of us, might have been ignoring the the More button related to Sources, since it has not been the subject of discusssion. Why you say only the 2nd one is needed makes me wonder what I am missing, since the complete information on the source text might properly belong in the first field.

Ken, I'm glad you responded to this point--particularly your last half of the last sentence. Help me understand the reasoning for the "Source Text" field that was attached to the Master Source template and is still there on tab.

As previously discusseded, RM4 had a "More" button attached to "Master Source," where we were offered two fields (the first for "Source Text" and the second for "Source Comments"). RM5 moves this to a tab called "Source Text" that now offers us the same two fields, "Source Text" and "Source Comments."

The need for the Source Comment field is obvious. We often need to comment upon the source itself, as opposed to the information within the source. We may need to say that the document is greatly damaged or barely legible, or that this published genealogy cites no sources for any of its assertions, or that the tombstone is a concrete one although the man supposedly died in 1801. But after we've cited the source and commented upon its condition, strengths, or flaws, what then is left to go under "Source Text"?

For the second "More" button (now a tab)--the one that covers the information within the source--the rationale for both Text and Comments is clear. But in all the years I've used RM (alongside most other programs, to be honest), I've never seen a need for a "Source Text" screen as a supplement to the citation screen and the "Source Comments" field.