Documentation: Introduction

Documentation is crucial to scholarly writing, and answers the savvy reader's very reasonable question: "This is an interesting idea or statement. How does the writer--and by extension, I (the reader)--know that it's either true or a legitimate theory or hypothesis?"

One way, of course, is you (the writer) to write an essay, which is a carefully developed argument leading to an original conclusion.

But if you are writing a report (a carefully organized synopsis of information you've gathered on a given topic) or for the component parts of your argument (essay) you need to show that your information (or data) is solid. You do this by assembling a good bibliography and then pinpointing where your specific facts or statements come from--with a citation that includes both the primary or secondary source AND the page number. Of course, if you're doing an original study and discussing data you yourself generated, you would refer to your own work.

In the following pages are discussions of:

Finding good images and documenting them

The University of Chicago Style, which is standard for art history, and

The thorny question of how to identify "Common Knowledge," and when it's OK to omit a footnote


© Jan Mainzer