Using the Internet for Research and Documentation

The Linkspages at

A Pocket Style Manual

The major benefit of the Internet – whether it's the web, email, forums, or mailing lists – is that it's easy to get online, get the information you're looking for, or post new information yourself.

The down side? Anyone can easily post information – even if it's inaccurate.

As a researcher, you have to learn to think critically when you're analyzing online source materials; and this exercise in critical thinking will help when it comes to analyzing other source materials as well. (See Mistress Celynen's article, "Tips for Research," in section 3 of the Atlantian A&S Handbook.)

While it's difficult to universally determine what aspects to look for in a good (or bad) source, there are several sorts of websites that can be useful tertiary source materials to the SCAdian researcher. I have provided a few examples of webpages which may be helpful -- but this is not meant to be a complete list.

The resources in this article were last updated in February 2018.

Museum and Library Websites

Many museums all over the world have websites, either describing their collections in general, or showing a detailed gallery of their collections. In most cases, they also feature online stores where you can order books or reproductions in order to learn more about items on exhibit. Another excellent feature: if you have a question about an item that one of your other sources has noted is in the museum's collection, you can use the website to find an email address so you can get in touch with someone at the museum to ask questions about the piece. You can find links to many of the museums with collections relating to the SCA's period of interest in the Museums, Libraries, & Galleries section of the Atlantian Arts & Sciences Links.

There are now more online resources for searching for specific sorts of items in museum and library collections. Some of the resources which I enjoy using for research include:

Online Art Galleries

While in many cases, the pictures in online art galleries are just scanned from art books, many of these websites can be helpful for viewing pictures (often in larger sizes or better detail than available in some print resources) as well as getting general information about the artist and the times in which he lived.

If you find an unattributed image online that you want to backtrack to get more information about where it came from, try using Google Images or TinEye to do a reverse image search.

(I recommend against relying on Wikimedia Commons and Pinterest for research; if you find an image through one of those sites, try to find and use the original library or museum’s webpage for that image.)

Online Reference Materials, Journals, and Scholarly Projects

There are research sites with primary source texts translated and/or typed and put online, often hosted on university web space. In many cases, it is easier to use a "hard copy" book, but they are not always readily available. You can often find relevant books through Google Books, the Internet Archive, and Project Gutenberg; some institutions have posted free versions of their books online, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the York Archaeological Trust.

Use Google Scholar to find books and articles relating to your research (you may have to use interlibrary loan to get a copy). You can also find some academic journals and organizations which relate to your field of interest.

Websites for Auction Houses

An auction house website may be your last opportunity to learn about an artifact before it goes into a private collection, and some of the higher-end auction houses are willing to answer questions about items long after the auction has taken place. If you are interested in getting a permanent record of the information (since many auction houses take down the information from the website after the auction has taken place), you can buy a copy of the auction catalogue to get photos and a description of the item.

SCA/Reenactor/Historian Research Work

While not always a reliable source for research, it is often good to read about how other SCAdians and reenactors and historians are approaching the sorts of questions you're trying to answer; and many of them provide excellent online resources too.

When analyzing an online reenactor research piece, examine the bibliography -- is there one? What resources did the reenactors use to come up with their conclusions? Some very good reenactors' webpages just give information on a procedure or a technique they have developed for making an item; these can be very helpful for understanding their point of view on how to make the same item, but if that's your only resource, it may not make for very thorough research on your part. Here are a few examples:

Additional Suggestions for Critical Evaluation of Internet-Based Source Materials

The websites listed below supply additional points of view in terms of methods for evaluating whether an online source is appropriate for your research, including criteria for such evaluation.

Several other websites, including several created for university libraries, also provide exercises in evaluating web-based research materials:

Bibliographical Entries for Online Sources

If you do use an online source, be sure to reference it in your bibliography! Following are just a few of the sorts of internet-related sources and how they are cited in print bibliographies under the MLA style. For other types of sources, or for other styles of bibliographies (such as Chicago or APA), I recommend checking a recent edition of the style manual.

The editors at Tournaments Illuminated prefer The Chicago Manual of Style. (When I was the editor for The Compleat Anachronist, I generally used Chicago, too, but I personally prefer the MLA style.)

For current electronic media citation guidelines, visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab; additional MLA resources are available on the Columbia College LibGuides. I also recommend tracking down the latest edition of Diana Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual, which covers MLA, Chicago, APA, and CSE, as well as tips that will improve your writing.

Pay attention to how you “break” a long URL at the end of a line. Don’t use hyphens unless they’re in the URL already!

When citing a source written by a member of the SCA, cite the author’s mundane name. (I also like to parenthetically note the author’s SCA name, but this is a personal preference.)

Scholarly project
Internet Medieval Sourcebook, edited by Paul Halsall. Accessed 6 February 2018.

Professional site
PotWeb. University of Oxford, Ashmolean Museum. Accessed 6 February 2018.

Art or artifact accessed from its home museum’s website
Purse. Late 15th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Accessed 6 February 2018.

Art or artifact accessed from an online collection other than its home museum
Holbein, Hans. The Ambassadors. 1533. The National Gallery, London. Google Arts & Culture, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Online book
Harrison, William. Harrison’s Description of England in Shakspere’s Youth, edited by Frederick J. Furnivall. London: The New Shakspere Society, 1877. Google Books, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Skelton, John. “Vppon a deedmans hed.” The Poetical Works of John Skelton, edited by Alexander Dyce, 1866. Luminarium, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Article in an online journal
Kronenfeld, Nathan (SCA: Daniel of Falling Rocks). “Burgundian Basse Dance: A Reconstruction of the Brussels MS.” The Letter of Dance 2, 2006, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Article from a magazine or periodical
Jolicoeur, Annie. “A knight’s tale: Meet the Society of Creative Anachronism.” The Signal, 1 Feb. 2018, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Article on a personal site
Kelly, Tasha (SCA: Marcele de Montsegur). “The tailoring of the grande assiette.” La cotte simple, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Article on a personal blog
Lawrie, Christine (SCA: Leoba of Lecelade). “Genovese Tart.” Leoba’s Historical Food, 28 Jan. 2018, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Streaming video
Hurst, Janis (SCA: Edyth Miller). “Quick Medieval Veil Tutorial.” YouTube, 8 Jul. 2012, Accessed 6 February 2018.

Facebook posts
The Mary Rose. Today is #HeritageTreasures Day. Facebook, 11 Jan. 2018, 11:34 a.m., Accessed 6 February 2018.

Carroll-Clark, Susan (SCA: Nicolaa de Bracton). “Re: Class on Documentation-writing.” Received by Karen Harris, 12 March 2002.

In a related note, MLA’s guidelines can be used to cite SCA publications, too:
Blatt, Elizabeth (SCA: Elianora Mathewes). “Yours Whilst Life Swayeth in Mine Inward Parts: Letters in Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Renaissance.” Compleat Anachronist, no. 112, Summer 2001.
Habura-Fisher, Andrea (SCA: Alison nic Dermot). “Occupational Heraldry.” Tournaments Illuminated, no. 87, Summer 1988, pp. 21-26.