Evidence Analysis: When and how to employ transcriptions and extracts?

Dear Editor;

I've read over a number of document analysis reports by a variety of authors in an effort to distill the format and content of such a document.

Observation: I note that some (genealogists) include a transcription or extract and some do not. In asking some more experienced genealogists, it became evident that those persons included a transcription or extract to facilitate later publication (via a simple cut and paste). However; I not that this specific rationale is not always in play.

Question #1: Is it good practice to always include a transcription or extract when writing about a document and, if so, why?

Observation: I understand (from what I've seen) that the gold standard for a transcription is to faithfully represent what was observed in the original. However; when performing an extraction, from a "fielded" document like a marriage certificate or census, it is not always possible and/or even practical to include everything printed on the document.

Question #2: When performing an extraction; is the "gold standard" to include (as a minimum) any aspect that may have a bearing on the analysis of the document? That is; for a census, would a simple field-value table and supporting notes on relevant information contained in the header/footer and any observations be adequate?

Submitted byEEon Wed, 03/13/2019 - 16:08


What a great set of questions. They're so good, in fact, that I'll use them as a springboard for the blog article. In meanwhile, two thoughts:

  • There is no hard-fast rule as to whether to transcribe a document, abstract it, or extract bits and pieces from it. That decision is guided by judgment.
  • I would never say that we "make a transcription or extract to facilitate later publication." When we begin a project, we have no assurances that it will merit publication. We abstract, extract, or transcribe based on the purpose of our research and the parameters set for it. This is what I'll expand upon in the next QuickTips.

In the meanwhile, if you have not read these postings here at EE, you might check them out:

  • https://www.evidenceexplained.com/quicktips/what-exactly-are-research-notes  (a short QuickTips that explains the differences between abstracts, extracts, and transcriptions.
  • https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-20-research-reports-research-success: A full QuickLesson that dissects the research report, what each segment covers, and why.

At my own personal website, https://www.historicpathways.com/researchreports.htm, you'll also find a variety of research reports. As you'll see, most of those reports are an assortment of abstracts, extracts, transcriptions, and images.

Submitted byHistory-Hunteron Wed, 03/13/2019 - 19:07

Dear Editor;

Thank you for your response and suggested reading. I will read the material and be looking forward to your blog article.