Sunday, May 15, 2016

Quick Lessons 3 & 4: Flawed Records and NARA Citations & Finding Aids

In March, DearMYRTLE started a new series of Hangouts on Air where she and Cousin Russ and the other panelists discuss the Quick Lessons found on Elizabeth Shown Mills' website Evidence Each week the panelists and any viewers who wish, post their analyses of the current Quick Lesson two days before the Hangout. The Quick Lesson is then discussed live at 12 noon (Eastern) Wednesdays and archived on You Tube within about 24 hours.

Here are the questions DearMYRTLE asks us to consider when studying each QuickLesson:
  • How does your research 'thinking' compare to the ideals posed by ESM?
  • What part of this QuickLesson inspired you to take a different course of action?
  • Has there been a research breakthrough after studying this QuickLesson?
Although I haven't yet encountered flawed records in my research (aside from minor inconsistencies) and I haven't done any research at NARA (The National Archives and Research Administration), these excellent lessons are well worth studying.

In QuickLesson 3, Elizabeth Shown Mills gives us four things to consider while researching:
  • Why was this record created?
  • Does the record hold the intended information?
  • What laws affected the creation of these records?
  • What is the historical context?
Reading this QuickLesson will absolutely impact my thinking going forward. I learned to consider the legal perspective fairly early, but I hadn't really considered the other factors, I may have noticed them, but I wasn't deliberately seeking out this information. I will definitely look at these questions going forward in my research.

QuickLesson 4, dealing with NARA Citations & Finding Aids, deals with more than just NARA; it is also a lesson in citing records when you don't have all of the information that books like Evidence Explained and the Chicago Manual of Style say should be cited.

To get to the answer about citing specific documentation a reader received from NARA, Elizabeth Shown Mills' lesson also guides the reader through some of the records available at NARA, their citation guide and even some of their own terminology. It is a great lesson that teaches us both about citations and about the records available from this terrific resource.

I haven't done any research at NARA yet but I am definitely motivated to find a reason to look for records there to see if they have anything to help me answer my current research questions.

The next QuickLesson is Analyzing Records. Hopefully I'll have a post about that in a few days.


Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 3: Flawed Records,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : [April 30, 2016]).

Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 4: NARA Citations & Finding Aids,” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( : [May 14, 2016])

1 comment:

Michelle Ganus Taggart said...

When I work with people I often see that people just hit and run essentially---grabbing a record and the intended information without really thinking deeply about it and missing so much in the process. Thanks for the reminder.