Saturday, 3 May 2014

Mastering Genealogical Proof Study Group 2 Chapter 7 Homework

Thomas W. Jones, Mastering Genealogical Proof (Arlington, Virginia: National Genealogical Society, 2013), 6. 

[Book available from the publisher at 

Chapter 7: Genealogical Proof Standard Element 5: The Written Conclusion

This is the point at which we know whether we have fulfilled the requirements of the other elements of the genealogical proof standard.

We cannot write any conclusion until we have an answer for our research question.

The written conclusion will need to pull together the other elements to show that we have met what is needed to prove our answer.

Proof Statement

Straightforward answers which require no resolution of conflict and can be answered by direct evidence from reliable original sources may be answered by the use of a proof statement citing all relevant sources. A statement should be clear and concise and is often included as part of a longer discussion such as in a written family history.

Proof Summary

If an answer requires more explanation than a single sentence or short paragraph it is considered to be a proof summary. This may require explanation for conflicts in the supporting evidence.

Proof Argument

When you get to more complex cases where the evidence is not direct and inference is required it is necessary to write a proof argument which may require piecing together complex information to make a case for the conclusion.

Clear Writing

However we write a conclusion we need to ensure clarity to avoid ambiguity and misunderstanding.
The research process should not be part of the discussion. We should only use the present tense for items or persons still in existence, care should be taken not to mix tenses or personalise with the use of I or me.

These points are discussed in more detail in the book. 
Whilst it is important to get the conclusion right, we should not stop ourselves from writing conclusions based on our current level of knowledge.

You may feel that your conclusion would benefit from that extra piece of information, but if you are not in a position to obtain that source of information at present, then write something based on what you have and include a note that you think something may, change or reinforce your conclusion. 
If something was to happen, you will have left your work so that someone else could continue and follow your thinking.
Having lots of sources and no conclusions is not helpful to anyone.

As we reach the end of our Study Group discussions, we should all aim to get those proof statements written.

Start your proof summaries where there is conflicting evidence.

Determine what needs that further analysis and how can it be broken down into easy chunks.

You cannot do everything at once, long proof arguments can be broken down, into smaller statements and summaries, then brought together to build the argument. 

We should approach our work in this way.

Otherwise we can overwhelm ourselves with the quantity of time and effort required.

Start small and gradually make bigger.

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