Documentation for SCA Competitions

Why Do We Document?

  1. Documentation shows your research; it is a great way to teach others about your project.
  2. More importantly, documentation allows others to follow up on your research.  Including a bibliography/footnotes allows others to find your sources and to branch out on their own research paths.

Your Research

  1. Begin your research before you start your project!
    1. Attempting to document what you did after you did it is much more difficult, and usually leads to learning that you’ve done  a lot of things the hard way.
    2. If you research how your item would have been made in period, not only will you be able to recreate it in a more period manner, but you are also more likely to learn why it was done that way in period.
  2. Project journals are wonderful!
    1. As you research, write down your sources and what you took away from each one.  This makes it easier to find them again later to follow up.
    2. Project journals can be handwritten or electronic.  If using a lot of web resources, I often start a Google Document so I can copy and paste links.  If using book resources, I often keep a notepad so I can write down interesting information and where I obtained it.
  3. Check your sources.
    1. If your source loops back to another source, try to find the original source.  Remember, interlibrary loan is your friend-use it!
    2. Try to have a good combination of books, scholarly articles, and online resources when possible.

Writing Your Documentation

  1. I write my documentation in four parts: Research, Your Project, Room for Improvement, and Bibliography.
  2. Research
    1. Be sure to cover the basics: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
      1. Who
        1. What person or people would have made or used this item
        2. Socio-economic status
      2. What
        1. Type of item-what you made
        2. Was this piece common for the time
        3. Be sure to include information about any extant pieces!
      3. When
        1. Century
        2. Year, if you can be more specific or if there are extant pieces
      4. Where
        1. Country/Region of Origin
        2. If the item is specific to a particular location, state that, particularly if basing your item off extent pieces
      5. Why
        1. What was the item used for?
        2. Why did you feel the need to make this item?
      6. How
        1. Materials Used
        2. Process for making item in period
    2. If you are basing your piece off extant pieces or paintings, be sure to include photos of these either in your documentation or as a separate appendix.
    3. Hint: Write this section before you begin your project-you’ll be grateful you did!
    4. Use footnotes or endnotes to show specific references.  The more specific you can be, the better; this allows others to follow up your research later.
  3. Your Project
    1. This section should focus on how you created your item.
    2. Basically, you want to give a step by step account of what you did; this tells your judges about your process.
    3. Include photos of your work in progress either within your documentation or as a separate appendix.
      1. What techniques did you use?
      2. What materials did you use?
        1. If your materials are period, be sure to state so.
        2. If your materials are not period, include any information about why you made modern changes.
      3. How does your item differ from the original?  Did you use different materials/techniques?  If so, why?
  4. Room for Improvement
    1. No project is perfect, and you’ll always learn things along the way. This is a chance to explain what you learned, and how you would change things for next time.
    2. Be sure to include any problems you had along the way and your solution to the problem, if any.  (And if you couldn’t fix it, this will give your judges the opportunity to discuss solutions with you!)
    3. People often skip this section; I’ve found it saves me valuable time in judging.  If I had a problem and discuss how I fixed it, my judges now know I understand what to do, and we can move to more important topics.
  5. Bibliography
    1. MLA, APA, and Chicago not required, but helpful if you know them.
    2. Whatever you do, use a consistent format.  At minimum, be sure to include the author, name of the book/article, publisher (if known), and date of publication.  If you can pinpoint your citation to a specific page number, include the page number in the footnotes.
    3. If it’s an online resource, give the link, as well as the above information.  Again, this is about letting others follow up; make it easy for them to find your sources.

Other Tips and Tricks

  1. Know what you want to get out of a judging session, and communicate that to your judges.  If you really want to know your score, say so.  But if you’re more concerned with learning and conversation, tell them that as well.  Judges aren’t mind readers; they can’t guide you if they don’t know what you want!
  2. Judging criteria is often available online.  Read your criteria before starting to write!  (Hint: The criteria for Calontir competitions may be found here:
  3. Length of Documentation
    1. Minimum documentation is a 3 x 5 index card.
      1. A 3 x 5 card provides very little information.  As a result, your judges will have a lot of questions for you, and you’ll spend your judging time filling them in on the basics before they can give you meaningful feedback.
    2. Maximum documentation
      1. There is no maximum.  However, remember that unless you are writing a research paper (which usually has to be submitted in advance), you only get an hour with your judges.  Including too much information means your judges will spend the entire hour reading, and will not have time to give meaningful feedback.
    3. I aim for 3-7 pages.  This allows me to provide enough information for my judges to get past the basics without taking up the entire hour.
  4. If pressed for time, don’t reinvent the wheel.  A fillable format is available at:
  5. Have a friend (or several) read your documentation.  If they had questions after reading, more research might be in order.
    1. Try to finish your documentation a few days early.  Take a break from it, and then come back.  You’ll catch more mistakes!
  7. Bring your sources with you, if possible.
  8. Pictures can be your friend; if they will help to increase the reader’s understanding, use them. If you have a lot, put them in an appendix.  Pictures/videos of your process are extremely useful to a judge.
  9. Don’t be afraid to suck.  You only get better with practice.

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