Too many people see something about their family genealogy in print and they accept it for truth without questioning its validity AND too much genealogy in print is WRONG!
What we need is more people who approach research as if they were Clark Kent aka Superman. These people have the analytical reporter’s eye of Clark Kent, but are able to see through things like Superman.
We need to question the conclusions we find in print, retrace the author’s steps and sources if needed, and if it is wrong, conduct our own research to discover the truth.
Are you done at that point? No.
You need to write a report about it because it is while you are writing up a report that you are able to spot holes in your research, errors, or clues because your brain processes the facts while you are writing.
Whether your research answered the research question or not, you still need to write the report. Sometimes while writing the report you are able to spot the clue that gives you a breakthrough to answer your research question.
The bottom line is, we need to take time to READ the information as if we were Clark Kent with a reporter’s mind, questioning things as we go and WRITE up our analysis of the research, seeing through misstatements and errors as if we were Superman and able to see through things.
Why would should you write a research report?
- It may help you solve the problem. It’s during the process of writing that your brain shifts into analysis mode. THAT is the function that really questions what has happened and why. This is the time to bring out all your research, spread it out on the table and systematically go through each source and document.
- It will document where you have been and what you have or have not found. This will help you pick up where you left off without having to retrace your steps.
- If something should happen to you, you will have left a record of the places you looked, discoveries you found, things you didn’t find, your analysis and plans for future research. Others will be able to pick up where you left off.
What should be in a research report?
- Date of the report
- The initial goal, assignment or question to answer, such as, “Who are the parents of Benjamin Chaplin?”
- The background or problem or previous research that has been done
- Repository – where you searched the records, i.e, the Family History Library, the courthouse, the National Archives, etc.
- Records searched and results – this includes the condition and validity of the records searched and their full citation. You should also note the condition of the record, if is faded or torn, or if there is no index, and you didn’t have time to read it thoroughly, you need to state that. Copies of the documents with sources labeled on the images.
- Summary of findings both positive and negative (what was not found)
- Recommendations – If you will add this step while the research is fresh in your mind, you’ll be able to remember where it is you wanted to go from here, whether you search this line again next month or a year from now.
So, put on your Clark Kent glasses as you search the records and don your Superman cape to see through the records as you write up the report!
Have you found a clue as you wrote up a report?
Related Posts: Come On Along: Research the Right Way.