You are familiar with school reports: “Fair”, “C-”, “Must spend less time chatting”. Nowadays many schools offer a computer-generated system so staff cut and paste the most , appropriate comments from pre-written alternatives and one hopes, tweak the result a little to suit individuals. Then there are your children’s reports, you know, the ones where you barely recognise the child described. My own favourite was a report, from an art teacher, commenting on my excellent work during a term when I had been absent with a broken leg! More relevantly, most genealogy programmes generate a variety of reports about individuals whose details we have lovingly inputted. In my experience, none of these ever do quite what you want, or if they do, that feature is omitted from subsequent software upgrades but it is a start. For our one-place studies we require something different. We need to look at the people within the place.
Every one-place study is different, so reporting needs will vary from study to study but you do need some form of reporting. Some, if not all, of the following will be relevant to you:-
A ‘to do’ list – short and long term aims and tasks for your study – with realistic deadlines. Joining in the monthly challenges on our Forum, where we state in public “This month I will.....”, helps to concentrate the mind.
A research log – a report of tasks accomplished – very satisfying.
Reporting results – you have transcribed a census return, you have collected newspaper references, you have conducted oral interviews – all these need to be recorded or processed in some way. Why not exchange ideas with other OPSers regarding ways of doing this?
Reporting conclusions – you have synthesised your findings from several data sets to come to some conclusions about what is going on in your place. Perhaps you have explored a particular theme or time frame. You now need to consolidate these findings into some form of report.
When we think of reporting, journalism springs to mind - reporting for the benefit of the wider public. This may require a different form of report than those you produce for your own benefit. You might write an article, a blog post or even a book. Alternatively you may ‘report’ via a lecture or display. Don’t underestimate the power of the Society’s In-Depth Reports. Those of us who have compiled these have found it an excellent way of consolidating our research. It also publicises our study and brings traffic to our own websites.
Finally, there is your own end of term report to yourself, where you evaluate your own performance. Have you achieved your OPS goals? Or like many of us, is it a case of “could do better”?