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Author: Jeffrey G. Barlow
Title: Exemplary Practices for Electronic Evidence (Project Épée)
Publication Info: Ann Arbor, MI: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library
1998-
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Source: Exemplary Practices for Electronic Evidence (Project Épée)
Jeffrey G. Barlow

, 1998-
Article Type: Article
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.3310410.0000.000

Project Épèe

Jeffrey G. Barlow

For the first two years of the Journal of the Association for History and Computing, the standards loosely outlined in our original version of "Project Épée" have served as an ongoing effort on the part of the Association For History and Computing to define exemplary practices for electronic evidence. As an electronic journal we had to confront many issues in this emerging field of history.

We have attempted to help practitioners to evolve standards comparable to those that have guided historians in print media. Many issues, of course, are the same in electronic sources as in paper ones. Others, however, seem to us to be quite different. Among issues which clearly pertain to electronic evidence in the field of history are these:

  • How should electronic materials be cited?
  • How should electronic materials be retrieved?
  • How should electronic materials be archived or preserved?
  • How do we indicate the probable reliability of electronic materials as opposed to conventional published ones?

As a result of our experience with the two years of publication, and after consideration of related issues, we have established the following standards for our own practices:

  • An outstanding site must have a statement on how the material was assembled and edited, and a statement of the purpose of the page or the central arguments of its contents?
  • An exemplary site must have at least one identifiable author who can be contacted with regard to content. The qualifications of the author or authors should be stated.
  • An exemplary piece should have an equivalent of pagination for on-line documents so that they can be cited properly. We have usually numbered headings and subheadings and used them to create a table of contents.
  • An exemplary piece must follow standard citation styles. We have selected "Chicago" style after a flirtation with MLA in-line citations because whereas the MLA style are increasingly standard in printed works, an in-line citation may not be able to conveniently carry the amount of information needed to cite an unpaginated on-line document.
  • There should be bibliographic references which are consonant with the citation style

In addition to working with articles, we have also evaluated and discussed a number of electronic sites and have begun to develop standards for those which we will include in our "JAHC Rings of Exemplary Sites." We feel that an exemplary site should have the following qualities, some of which overlap with the qualities of a good article:

  • An outstanding site must have a statement on how the material was assembled and edited, and a statement of the purpose of the site.
  • An exemplary site must have at least one identifiable author who can be contacted with regard to content and the qualifications of that author should be accessible.
  • Whereas no one form of citation can be regarded as exemplary, an outstanding site should follow consistent and useful practices for citing materials, and there should be bibliographic references which are consonant with the citation style.
  • There should be clear statements as to when a document was last updated and references to when and how often it was updated.
  • An exemplary site should be well designed. Outstanding design should:
    • Present a site which loads quickly.
    • The graphics should complement rather than overwhelm or dominate the content.
    • The graphics and design should be esthetically pleasing and appropriate to the content.
    • The graphics and design should increase the attractiveness of the site
    • An exemplary site should be intuitively navigable, although it reasonable to expect the reader to take a few moments to understand the organization of a very complex site which will repay that delay with a correspondingly higher level of accessibility.

We welcome discussion on these and related issues. For the present we will use our LISTSERV for this process. (Please subscribe to H-AHC.) In the future we will have a dedicated bulletin board available which should facilitate additional discussions.

Jeffrey Barlow <barlowj@pacificu.edu>
November 29, 1999