Citing a "hacked" URL

 
 
 
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yhoitink
yhoitink's picture
Citing a "hacked" URL

Dear Editor,

The Amsterdam City Archives provides different indexes on their website. The website itself offers no way to search all of them with one search form. But if you take the URL of one of the searches, and change one of the search parameters to 0 [zero], it searches all of the indexes at once. The archives confirmed that this trick does indeed give the correct results.

If I'm writing a report and want to cite that a search of all the indexes did not turn up any results, how would I cite that search?

A citation for a single index would be something like
"Doopregisters 1564-1811" [Baptismal registers 1564-1811], index and images, Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchief (https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/doopregisters_1564-1811 : accessed 29 November 2017).

A search for Hoitink in that single index yields no results: https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/doopregisters_1564-1811/zoek/query.nl.pl?i1=1&a1=hoitink&x=19&z=b

But if I change the x=19 to x=0 in the URL I search all databases at once and get 26 hits: https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/doopregisters_1564-1811/zoek/query.nl.pl?i1=1&a1=hoitink&x=0&z=b

Here's my attempt at citing this "hacked" search:
"Indexen," indexes, Gemeente Amsterdam Stadsarchief (https://archief.amsterdam/indexen/index.nl.html : accessed 29 November 2017), query for achternaam [last name] "Hoitink" over all databases by searching one database and changing the value for the database in the query string to x=0.

In situations where there are hits, I usually repeat the search the normal way and cite the individual indexes. But if I want to cite a search that has no results, I don't want to repeat that 30+ times for all the individual indexes and create 30+ citations, but just want to cite the "hacked" search. 

I know my attempt is clunky, but I can't think of a better way to handle this. I'd appreciate your input.

EE
EE's picture

Yvette, every time someone asks about citing a problematic digital issue, I first think: How would we handle this if it were a traditional "paper-record" issue?

For example, I'm working a court-records series from a U.S. county in the early 1800s, where there exists a voluminous index to court cases. When I run a search of that massive index, I find no record for "Joe Schmoe." However, if I go directly to the court record books during his time-frame there and I turn page by page, eyeballing the script for embedded entries, I find numerous references to Joe Schmoe. How would we cite the findings? We'd cite the books we used and the specific pages where relevant items were found. Then we would add a note to explain the research methodology that turned up  evidence that a standard-index search did not reveal.

That, perzactly, is what you did in this digital situation. Perhaps it looks "clunky" from the standpoint that it deviates from the basic model. But your methodology deviated from the basics, an explanation is needed to help not only others but yourself when you come back to this problem situation, and you did well in explaining your method.

The Editor

yhoitink
yhoitink's picture

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your reply. Glad to hear that I'm going in the right direction. 

My proposed citation explains my process, but does not explain why I am confident that the shortcut does not affect the outcome. In the footnote, I think I should add that the Amsterdam City Archives confirmed that the query gives the same results, so that the reader does not have to wonder about this. That's still quicker than citing 30 indexes! 

In that respect, it's not like your paper-world example where you're dealing with a derivative and an original record where the different searches give different results. The "hacked" search uses the same underlying database and provides the same results as searching all the indexes individually. I need to make sure that the readers understand that and can have confidence in my results.

Yvette Hoitink, CGSM, the Netherlands
Dutch Genealogy Services

EE
EE's picture

Yvette, that last sentence of yours is the most important part of our discussion.

The Editor