What is documentation?
Documentation, is writing down your research, and process. It is synthesizing the information you have garnered through research, explaining your process and how it compares to the process that would have been used in its period, and rationalizing why you chose to to do things the way you did. It is used mostly in competitions, and it is incredibly valuable to those judging. It isn’t a dissertation, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a research paper. It isn’t about your writing ability, but about communicating important information. It is a road map for your judges. It should be short enough to read in the time allotted, but long enough to cover the pertinent details of your project. It can be in essay form, or it can be tabular in form. It doesn’t even have to be typed, as long as it is legible.
What is the point of documentation?
Simply put…it is communicating your research and process. We require documentation for all kingdom competitions because it is an invaluable tool when our experts are evaluating your entry. It allows them to understand the item’s setting in time and place and also your thought process in creating it. This allows them to more accurately score the entry, as well as provide feedback to the entrant. Remember, entries are not judged against each other, but against a period ideal, and its really hard to determine how successful it is, if they don’t know how the thing was created.
What should I include in my documentation?
You should cover the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Start out with a description of the item: What is it? When and where did it exist? Who would have used it? What research did you use as inspiration in creating the item (don’t forget to cite where you found it)?
Next, you should talk about how the item was created. How would it have been created in period? How did you create the item? What materials, tools, and techniques did you use? How did the materials, tools, and techniques you used compare to what would have been used in period? If you used substitute something for a modern equivalent, why did you make that choice?
Finally, you should conclude with a little bit about your experience in creating the item. What challenges did you experience in creating the item? What did you learn? What would you have done differently?
While this refers to a static item, the same questions exist for other types of entries. We have some handy forms to help you in preparing your documentation…just pick the one that corresponds with what you are doing.
What about citing my sources?
It is essential to cite your sources in your documentation. Not only does it lend weight and credibility to your conclusions, but it also protects you from plagiarism by crediting those whose works you drew upon in your research. With the exception of common knowledge, you should cite anything that you find in another author’s work. Whether it is a direct quote, a summary, a list of facts or data, a graph, or a photo, it is important that you include from which source you found the information.
In Caid, we don’t require that you use a specific style guide for citing your sources. However, using in text citation or footnotes, are the most convenient methods for your judges. The reason is that if a question comes up while reading your documentation about where the statement came from, it is easiest to check if the citation is close at hand. The main thing is to make sure that you include the specifics of the sources so that it can be easily found by the judges (ie. book and page #). Aside from citing throughout your writing, you should also include the bibliographic information for all your sources at the end of your documentation.
The different forms of citation are included in what are referred to as style guides. The common style guides include APA, Chicago, and MLA. These guides all contain the specific ways that different types of sources should be listed. You can find an explanation about these different guides here.