Thursday, March 31, 2016

Documentation: A Bibliography and Bonus Outline

Some time ago, I found that people didn't realize that there are resources out there on writing documentation, either for competition (which is the general focus) or just because you're interested in it.

I am not going to tell what is required--a number of articles have already been written, by people with more experience than I.  However, I will give my thoughts each of the various articles; plus, below the links there will be my personal outline, which I use to ensure I don't forget anything. 

A and S Documentation: Quite a good overview of what documentation is, why you should write it (other than you have to), and how it differs from the papers you had to write in school.

Basic Documentation and Research: Includes an example of a short piece of documentation, but importantly addresses the differences between primary/secondary/tertiary souces.

Documentation--The Four Questions: This is purely for competition, and gives various acceptable levels of effort for competition writing, along with what does and doesn't work.

Documentation by Mynjon du Jardin: More or less a series of points on what should be included, and why.  It also covers what is the most important parts of your documentation.

Documentation is not an Obituary: A extremely good article.  In addition to saying roughly what should be in the documentation, it focuses on /why/ you should write it, and most importantly on making compromises in a project.

Documentation--Not as Scary as It Sounds: A quick and dirty guide to writing short documentation.

Documentation/Preparing for Competition: A short article, simply overviewing the process, and stressing the research first.

Entering SCA Arts and Sciences Competitions and Displays: An excellent overview, including what a piece of documentation should cover, and what it should and should not be.  It does, however, focus more on the entire process of entering a competition (including presentation, and how to take negative comments).

How To Survive an Arts and Sciences Competition Without Committing Suicide: One of the best links included; it is in two parts.  The first covers entering competitions, and why you should do so; and the second gives an example of a piece of documentation and discusses each section.

5 Easy Step to Writing Documentation for Arts and Sciences Competitions: Another excellent basic overview; this particular one also includes ideas of how to state your assumptions, and other bits that you can't really documents, but believe are reasonable.

Writing Research Papers in the SCA: Ok, this is lovely.  Not on actual documentation, but breaking down writing a research paper for entering in SCA competitions, and including some on what not to do.

My outline: (UPDATED: 4-4-16)

First of all, I should say that I hardly ever enter competitions.  They just don't particularly interest me.  My documentation is primarily written for this blog, the occasional display, and for myself (and for the Historical Sew Monthly, although that could be considered a kind of Non-SCA competition).  I highly suggest using this as a starter--depending on your craft, what you are writing for, and your personal writing style, you will probably want to move things around, and add or subtract sections.

There are a few points I should stress:
Take notes on everything, both as you are researching prior to the project, and while making it--these should especially include your reasons for each decision you make.  Nothing is worse than finding that you don't know why you did something, when it comes time to write the documentation, or that you lost a source--this is particularly bad if a project takes months or years to make because you put it up for a while.  So keep a Journal!!

Assume your reader doesn't know anything about the topic, but is interested.  On the other hand, you should also keep the writing interesting.

Please...please, please....include a bibliography, preferably with citations.  It doesn't matter what style you use, so long as it is consistent, and has all the information.  Especially if you plan on publishing online, as a reader I can state that nothing irritates me more than a decent article, that doesn't give I have to throw it out as being suspect.

·         The Project: What the project is, where it is from.
·         The find and sources: What are the primary and secondary sources your project is based on, and give the background of the source (when and where the original garment was found, etc).
o   More on the period of the project, both time period and location.
·         My Goals
o   What my reconstructive goal is. Why this garment? Try to show why you are passionate about this project.
o   Why did these exist in the first place?
·         Garment Description
o   What does it look like? Is there anything unusual about it?
·         Original Materials
o   The materials used in the original.
·         Materials
o   What materials did I use? Why those ones, and how did I differ from the original?
·         Construction
o   Pattern
o   Rough description of the pieces.
·         Drafting the pattern
·         How did I determine the measurements?
·         Theorized period cutting layout (Optional)
o   Guess the width of the extant material, and how the pieces would have been cut from it.
·         Seams and choices
o   Thought process for determining what seam treatments to use.
·         Construction (Order of operations). Make sure to include the reasons for each decision, especially shortcuts.  I like to put many pictures here.
·         Conclusions and what I learned This is another part where keeping a journal is important--typically you learn things throughout the project. 
·         What I would do differently next time.  If you do this again, what would you do differently?
·         Who; Made, paid for, and used the item. How much would it have cost in the currency of the time?
·         How HA did the project come out?  I am going to send you to The Dreamstress's excellent article on how she determines Historical Authenticity.  It's not SCA, but brings up some interesting points.
·         Time Exactly that--how long it took to make.  I also like to include the value of the garment, ideally in both modern and period costs.
·         Bibliography  Include your citations here....

The above is for a full piece of documentation.  If you are submitting it for display or competition, you may want to write a one page overview in multiple copies for people to take away.  This should include the project and sources, your goals, roughly how it was made, and what compromises you made--plus, your contact information if they want to ask questions later.

© John Frey, 2016. The Author of this work retains full copyright for this material. Permission is granted to make and distribute verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial private research or educational purposes provided the copyright notice and this permission notice are preserved on all copies.  Photographs of my work may not be duplicated.

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