A Concise Guide to Documentation

by Master Victor Hildebrand

Presenting the description, explanations and documentation of your Art/Sci entry in a compact, understandable format will allow judges to quickly and easily learn about your project and find the information for properly judging. The following suggestions can be used with information on Art/Sci entries and documentation located at the Trimaris MOAS website.

1. Eliminate excess text. You are not writing fiction, so avoid long descriptions or other “purple prose”. Every statement within the document should support the thesis. Side subjects and history may be fascinating, but if they don’t contribute, eliminate them. Quotations should be used sparingly and only enough to make the specified point. Don’t quote an entire paragraph when a couple of sentences will do. If the quote is in your photocopy set, don’t include it in the body text.

2. Reduce word usage within sentences. Use straightforward English. Be careful with adjectives and adverbs. In technical writing, these often add little and can be eliminated. Examine each sentence of a draft to see if you can shorten or omit it. For example, “a method that was in wide use during the 6th century” can be shortened to “a method widely used in the 6th century”. Examine your use of “the”; often it can be eliminated without loss of meaning.

3. Keep the subject clear and understandable.

4. Use good grammar. If your word processor has a grammar-check function, use it. Same with spelling. Make sure the spell check corrected to the right word; you don’t want “asses” instead of “assess”.

5. Avoid “buzzword” types of grammar or vocabulary. Anyone who uses “at this point in time” instead of “now” should be shot.

6. Use a consistent citation style throughout the text. The academic format of (Smith 1999) or Smith (1999) is fast and understandable. Numbered citations save text space, but often can be cumbersome to look up. Two authors are cited as “Smith and Jones” or “Smith & Jones”. More than two should be cited “Smith et al.”. Some writers will use a comma between author and year when in parentheses. Multiple citations within one statement should be clearly separated: (Smith 1999, Jones 2000) or (Smith 1999; Jones 2000).

7. Use a standard format for your bibliography entries. Double spacing, hanging indents or similar should be used to visually separate individual entries. Entries should be ordered alphabetically by first author. Multiple entries with the same author are ordered chronologically. For multiple entries with someone as sole and first author, sole authorships first, then first authorships alphabetically by second author. An example order: Smith (1999), Smith (2000), Smith & Jones (1990) and Smith & Lewis (1989). For cases of multiple years for the same author, use a suffix letter (in citation order) to differentiate them: Smith (1999a) and Smith (1999b). If using numbered citations, use in order cited with matching numbers before the entries.

8. Words in non-English languages should be italicized. This includes latinized scientific names of species. They are properly written with the genus (first) name capitalized and the species (second) name lower case: Homo sapiens. First usage should have the full name spelled out; afterward you can abbreviate the genus name (H. sapiens), unless at the beginning of a sentence.

9. Tables are useful for condensing large amounts of information into a compact space. A good example is a two-column table listing the historically used materials for a project in the first column and the actual materials used in the second. Another example would be to tabulate weave and spin descriptions of fabric for different parts of a garment or several garments in a project. Optionally, a third column with citations can be added to show where the information came from.

10. Avoid excess photocopies. Include what is required to support and develop what you did, but don’t include more than is needed.

11. Reread and revise your manuscript several times.

12. Have at least one person critically proofread your document.