Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Monday, December 02, 2013

Writing history - organising material 1: record

This series of posts is especially addressed to those who write "big" history, although I hope that they will be useful to others. What do I mean by "big" history? Simply those whose topic(s) cover a wide span\ in space or time, who have to organise a volume of material that sometimes seems beyond them,

They are also addressed to those who, like me, write in multiple formats where you tailor your work to that format and then find that the material you have written is not useful in another and especially more formal format. For example, I write a weekly history column for the Armidale Express, Those columns are directly relevant to one major project, my history of the broader New England over the last 50,000 years.

This is where my present frustration with myself comes in. The columns are only 500 words, yet each year, I write the equivalent of a large honours thesis measured by word length, an MA every two years. Because the columns are for popular consumption, I do not give references, they are compilations and interpretations. But then when I come to use them in later writing, I have a problem: where do I find the sources? Now I have to waste time replicating my work to find the original references.

The lesson? Record your sources even if they are not included in the material you publish. It sounds simple and dumb, but its true!

No comments: