What to do with a “Perfect” Source?

Will, there is no “perfect” source but….

Consider this scenario:

nose in bookYou have been diligently checking out one book after another, researching a variety of resources that are only available using inter-library loan or for a short term.  You are doing your “reasonably exhaustive” research for the Kinship Determination Project or KDP.  You discover a snippet of evidence in one source and a snippet of contextual material supportive of your theme in another– and then you “stirke gold!” You hold in your hands the source that fills in all those gaps (or appears to) between all those other snippets you have gathered. The complex puzzle of your family history is suddenly a full, but still fuzzy, image. There is relevant info on almost every page.


Oh, oh. Not so great!

The book has to be returned in 3 days and you are not ready to write.  This was the” problem” I faced this past month.

This particular book which filled in so many gaps in my family history was on inter-library loan with no extensions. The book included a long chapter about the background of the family and the individual I am researching, followed by the career information peppered with anecdotes of the idiosyncrasies of his family (my family of interest!) and then added some terrific attachments at the end.

If there is just a couple of pages that are of interest, I will use my phone to take photos of the critical pages; however, in this scenario, there are too many pages to take photos.

The method I found that works for me is the following:

  1. I review the source quickly to get an idea of the scope of the content
  2. I take typed notes
  3. At the top of the page is the citation
  4. Each entry is followed by the page number in parentheses
  5. I arrange the information in a chronological order if the author did not (mine didn’t) or at a minimum by individual (my source had information on all three generations)
  6. Phrases used verbatim are placed in quotes; when I make notes which  summarize the information, there are no quotes.
  7. I make sure the page number is listed in parentheses at the end of the note.
  8. And finally, I file it in Evernote with appropriate tags!

To incorporate the information into the document, care must be taken to use the concept and not plagiarize the source unless quoting. Usually the different intent of the KDP, the rearrangement of the information and the incorporation into a family history narrative makes plagiarism a more remote possible, but constant diligence is needed.  If you have more than one source that you have taken these kind of notes, you may need to differentiate between the sources as you incorporate the notes into your document.  To make it very clear which source provided the information, I add the author’s initials to the page number, e.g. (DJ 43).

This retyping approach also works well for me because i am visual reader/learner.  The process of typing actually “burns’ the information into my brain so the information becomes very internalized.

What do you do?  Can you give me some hints about how to do this better?

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting:  Worked on my materials for the SGS meeting–Board report for November, devised the rules for a family history writing contest modeled after the Southern California GS GENii contest (with permission, of course); picked up the newsletter and removed all the staples (new rule d’jour by the USPS); watched the Ohio State game — sort of (I get too nervous, so I am in and out of the room); worked on my KDP for about five hours and wrote this blog which I had started quite differently.



2 comments on “What to do with a “Perfect” Source?

  1. Yikes. What I would have done, is photocopy it, no matter how many pages, to have time to read it over and over, then decide how to organize the material and what to use. But your approach has the advantage of forcing you to synthesize the info as rapidly as possible which actually would help you get started on writing for the KDP!!!!

    • Jill Morelli says:

      Wedgewood, I’ve done that too. I really like my “finescanner” app. I can take photos with my phone and then create a single PDF from multiple images. But about 20 pages is my limit. This dissertation was over 600 pages long. And you are right, the process of recording the information does help with the writing process by internalizing the information.

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