Questions about linking layers and item types

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dandennison84's picture
Questions about linking layers and item types


I would like to understand "item types" and linkage words between "layers" better (I've read lessons like QuickLesson 19, "Processed Records" in EE, "Common Practices" in EE, "Online Materials" in EE).  I do not have a specific question in mind, more that I am trying to formulate my understanding of these two important pieces of a citation that I don't think have their own sections and discussions within EE.  I have seen numerous discussions in different forum threads, FB posts, and sometimes in the QuickTips.  When I am reading other threads on the forum, FB, or looking at citations, I find myself asking these two questions over and over again.

I realize that item type is very similar to an edition and describes what we are seeing and using.  But sometimes I see "database with images" versus "database and images", and "digital image" versus "image" as just two examples.  I am not sure if I am worrying about nothing here or not.  It would be nice if there were a catalogue of these various types and how to combine them?

My second question relates to "layers" and how we tie them together.  In many cases, it just seems to be a free-form way to tie things together "imaged at", "imaged from", "for", sometimes nothing at just layer 1; layer 2.  "citing " then follows another layer or a layer in quotes [I believe this to be quoting what our source says it is citing].  Sometimes it seems to be how it is being used? "consulted as", "referenced as".  It would be nice if there were also some kind of cataloque of these terms.

At any rate, I've found the greatest benefit so far is how I am thinking more about the source I am using and what I am getting out of it and the purpose of the layering.



EE's picture

Hello, Dan.

Re "Item Types"

Yes, this field that immediately follows the title of a published work is the place where we would cite the "edition"—if that published work existed in different editions. We also use it, in that same function, for other items, to explain what we're using so that readers of our citation (and ourselves at a later date, after our recollection of the source has grown cold), will understand exactly what kind of source we're using. For example:

  • If we are citing published software, we’d cite the version here.
  • If we are citing a published CD-ROM, we would use that field to say that the published title is a CD-ROM—otherwise readers would assume it to be a book.
  • If we're citing a page or database at a website that offers a variety of things (the equivalent of citing a chapter in a book that has chapters by different authors), we would use that field to identify whether the item we’ve cited is an authored article, or a database, or whatever.

Re different wording for different types of databases

Undoubtedly, you have noticed that all databases are not the same. For example:

  • Some follow the original concept of an Excel-type spreadsheet that has data fields into which the creators entered certain names or other pieces of information. From this database we will be citing a specific “entry” that has the data we’re interested in.
  • Some follow this model, but offer images as well as the “entry" (or, in some cases, record extracts).
  • More recently, as we've especially seen with the wealth of microfilmed historic documents now being imaged by FamilySearch, a database will offer images for browsing without any accompanying data entry.

So, when we are using a database we choose words that best describe what we are using. As you wisely note, pausing to think about what we are using and how best to describe it, results in our “thinking more about the source” and its quality.

Re words chosen to link layers

Again, we need options in order to clearly express what we are doing, seeing, or using. For example:

  • If Layer 1 cites a database entry (not an image), then the accuracy of our research rests upon the accuracy of the entry created by the provider and the reliability of the source it took its information from. Therefore, after we cite the database entry, we add Layer 2 to say that the database is, itself, “citing XYZ.”  Citing is the linking word that explains the relationship between the two different things we are citing—i.e., Source A is citing XYZ.”
  • If Layer 1 cites record images that we accessed through a database, then in Layer 2 we will cite the online provider at which we accessed the images. The linking words in that case would be something such as imaged at …  or imaged in ... (Our choice of preposition here would follow normal rules of grammar. In this case, we normally say that we find something in a database, but we found something at a certain website.)
  • If Layer 1 cites record images that are, say, incompletely imaged so that we can’t determine full citation data from the images alone, then Layer 1 would cite as much as we can for the original; Layer 2 would cite the provider; and Layer 3 would report what our provider says it is using. In this case, we have two sets of linking words serving different functions—as well as descriptive words in that "type of item" field. For example:

     1.  Washington County, WhateverState, Book [unidentified], p. 253, docket entry for Jones vs. Smith (1853); imaged in “Washington County Court, WhateverState, Court Records 1848–1853,” database with images, Wonderful Record Provider ( accessed 31 August 2017), citing “Washington County Clerk’s Office, CountySeat, WhateverState."

EE demonstrates a variety of situations and uses. It does not dictate specific linking words or specific descriptive words, because researchers need to pause, evaluate what they have, and choose wording that most clearly describes their situation.

The most important thing regarding those linking words, when we are working with layers, is that we do use those linking words. Without the linking words, our readers (and ourselves at a later date) are likely to assume that the two layers refer to two different sources.

The Editor