Getting Started

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Project Guidelines

These guidelines take a “Simple Plus” approach to transcription. Our goal is to make our digitized manuscripts searchable. You can help by creating a true word-for-word rendering of the document, preserving the original punctuation, spelling, and basic structure (page, paragraph and line breaks) where possible.

Participants may choose to transcribe new documents, review previously-transcribed documents, or both. Each document will be studied by at least two participants to ensure accuracy.

To begin:

  1. Select the project you would like to work on by clicking the title of the collection listed on the Woodson Research Center main page (e.g. "William Marsh Rice Letters and Documents", "Rice Family Papers", or "U.S. Civil War letters and journals at Rice University".)
  2. Use the search boxes in the column on the right to locate specific documents, or simply click the “Pages That Need Transcription” or “Pages That Need Review” buttons to navigate to the list of documents that still need work.
  3. Select your item by clicking on the image of the document you would like to work on. Beneath each image is a completion bar that shows you the progress made on that document so far.
  4. Click the “Transcribe” tab at the top to open the text editor and begin transcribing or reviewing. You can select the “Save” button at any time to save your progress.
  5. At the bottom of the page is a “Notes and Questions” text box. Please use this space to ask questions and collaborate with other transcribers/reviewers on difficult or confusing sections.
  6. Once you have finished:
    Transcribing a document - Select the “Done” button to submit your work for secondary review.
    Reviewing a document - Select the “Approve” button to submit your work for WRC review and publication.

Transcription Tips

Transcribe what you see. Simply type what you see on the page, preserving spelling errors, punctuation, and so on. Follow the reading order and layout as best you can. Resist the urge to modernize spelling or correct mistakes. Type the words as they are presented, including capitalization, abbreviations, names, and dates.

If you encounter:

• Printed or typed text - Please transcribe the letterhead, including names, places, and any words that are in the letterhead.

• Images - Do not describe images or other visual elements within the transcription box.

• Marginalia - Marginalia is text written in the space around the main block of text. It is often a comment on the main body text but may also be unrelated. It differs from an insertion, because it cannot be directly inserted into the main text and still make sense when read aloud. Put a pair of square brackets and asterisks [* *] around marginalia text and order it within the transcription where it makes the most sense (or at the end of the transcription if it appears unrelated).

Use complete words. Often, a writer will break and hyphenate a word when moving from one line to the next. Don't preserve these breaks or transcribe these hyphens; just write the complete word. This will better enable researchers to run effective word searches. (This does not include words that ordinarily are hyphenated).

Do not attempt to format text. Do not indicate indents, font style, bolded, underlined, or italicized text. Remember, the goal is to make the digitized manuscript searchable; users will be able to view the page image itself, so describing the appearance of the text is unnecessary.

Do show columns. Retain the original column formatting in your transcription if it helps communicate the meaning behind the display text. Use the vertical pipe symbol (|) to indicate separate columns. If a column is empty, use the space bar as a placeholder (e.g., Name |   | Address).

Use double brackets around a word or phrase if unclear. When you encounter a word or phrase that you can't make out or is otherwise illegible, use double brackets to indicate this (e.g., [[?]]). If you can propose a reasonable guess, place your guess in double brackets with a question mark following it (e.g., [[barn?]]). If a word or sentence is crossed out, denote this within double brackets also (e.g., [[crossed out]]).

Review Tips

Review for accuracy and completeness. Compare the transcription to the original page images carefully to make sure they match. Make sure all images, crossed out words, illegible words, and marginalia are noted in double brackets.

Attempt to clarify any words or phrases marked with brackets. Sometimes a second set of eyes is all that is needed to decipher the missing text. Otherwise, preserve the existing question marks and brackets as shown.

Check the notes and questions section at the bottom of the page. Resolve any outstanding questions or issues to the best of your ability. Consider making changes to the transcription based on the notes provided. Remember the goal of this project is to provide accurate, searchable text for the digitized manuscripts.

For additional help or questions not addressed here, please email woodson@rice.edu.