Evidentia pre-review

I just learned of the program Evidentia, which is designed to guide you through the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) process.  I just downloaded a copy to review, and though I’d give my thoughts on what such a program should do before I look at it and review it.  I’m not going to hold Evidentia to this standard, but if they surprise me with features that will be extra credit.

My main concern for this kind of program is that the GPS does not involve easily quantified criteria.  As a review, here are the five requirements for the GPS, copied from the Board for Certification of Genealogists page:

  • a reasonably exhaustive search;
  • complete and accurate source citations;
  • analysis and correlation of the collected information;
  • resolution of any conflicting evidence; and
  • a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion.

So how might software help with the five steps?

A reasonably exhaustive search

I can’t think of a way to measure a reasonably exhaustive search, as the search space will vary for different problems.  The search is either reasonably exhaustive or it isn’t.  What I’d imagine would be a research log to keep track of your search. A checklist that you could create for what you need to do to achieve an exhaustive search would be handy.  Finally, a structured way to enter your findings would also be helpful.

Complete and accurate source citations

Hopefully the search section gives you the opportunity to enter your source citations and highlights facts where citations are lacking.  Help on creating the citations would be a nice touch.

Analysis and correlation of the collected information

I’m not sure how a program would help here unless it uses some sort of logical graphing to organize the analysis.

Resolution of any conflicting evidence

I’m at even more of a loss on this one, as I can’t think of what a program would do besides letting you list conflicts and type your resolution.

A soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion

I can’t imagine anything beyond attaching a Word document with your analysis.  Here’s a crazy idea, though.  If it is possible to represent your argument in step 3 in a purely logical fashion, it would be interesting if the program could then generate the proof argument in logical terms.  I think this is pushing the bounds of software, though, and wouldn’t expect to get something real readable.

So it looks like the opportunities to help the GPS process occur early in the process when you are doing regular investigation.  As it gets deeper into analysis and writing I can’t see where a special-purpose program would help.  Now to see if I’m wrong, and I hope I am.

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3 Responses to Evidentia pre-review

  1. You are right on many points regarding what software can and can’t do for you vis-a-vis the GPS. The way Evidentia tries to help with the GPS is through the organization of data and a (relativity) strict process.

    For instance, a Citation is required.
    The application presents all claims from multiple sources on one screen so that you can evaluate them in context, identify how exhaustive your search is.
    Allows the user to identify evidence as direct, indirect, or negative
    The user can analyze a claim and indicate why it does NOT apply in a particular case (wrong person, wrong date, etc…
    A research log can be generated indicating where more research is required.
    Support for entering a conclusion, but only AFTER the evidence has been analyzed.

    Now obviously the software cannot determine the QUALITY of your analysis or conclusion, nor can it keep you from short changing the process. It also cannot generate your conclusion based on the analysis. But it does a pretty good job of leading you through the process and giving you the flags needed to determine how well YOU as the user are following the GPS.

    It’s real value is in how it presents the information to you so that YOU can follow the GPS.

    Not everyone sees the need for “special software” to accomplish this, and I respect that; but many who have tried it are finding it invaluable for thinking about their research in a more GPS compliant way.

  2. Those are good comments and fit my experience so far with Evidentia. For the benefit of other readers, Ed is the guy behind Evidentia. I’m working on a proof in Evidentia but got bogged down in the GPS process rather than anything in Evidentia itself. The GPS requirement for a reasonably exhaustive search ended up being a killer in the proof I’m doing. I’ll write more on this and eventually review Evidentia separately.

  3. Pingback: Review of Evidentia | GenVoyage

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