The achievement of our genealogical objectives is dependent on the scope of research, availability of resources, and time needed to address those objectives. The following terms common to the genealogy community are presented to help define the various aspects relative to research:

Goal: a long-term, research aspiration one hopes to accomplish or achieve [Example]

  • scope of research is very broad
  • may require development of multiple research plans
  • multiple, supportive objectives will need to be addressed
  • research time required to address is inestimable [long-term]
  • research outcome is unpredictable

Objective: a defined action to be executed involving either a search or research (may be either a record-search objective or a research-related objective within a research plan)

  • scope of research can be either narrow or broad
  • time requirement to address may be estimable [short-term] or inestimable [long-term]
  • research outcome is unpredictable

Record-search objective: a type of objective in which a short-term search (lookup) is conducted in pursuit of records, print sources, etc. [Example]

  • scope of search is generally narrow and involves pursuit of tangible material
  • generally can be pursued without the need of a research plan
  • often achieved by means of an index, database, or search engine input
  • requires little or no use of analysis to accomplish
  • time requirement to address is generally estimable [short-term]
  • search outcome may be either predictable (focal subject of objective known to exist) or unpredictable (focal subject of objective not known to exist)

Research-related objective: a type of objective in which research is performed in anticipation of answering a question or resolving a problem [Example]

  • scope of research is generally broad
  • requires formal review of prior body of research and related compilation
  • requires development of a strategic research plan to pursue
  • multiple, supportive objectives may need to be addressed
  • analysis-dependent work throughout all phases of the research process
  • incorporates use of direct evidence, indirect evidence (circumstantial), and negative evidence
  • time requirement to address is inestimable [usually long-term]
  • research outcome is unpredictable

Research Plan: an executable proposal crafted to address objectives concerning questions or problems towards accomplishing or achieving a goal

  • requires formal review of prior body of research and related compilation
  • usually features multiple objectives (record-search and/or research-related)
  • time requirement to address each objective may be estimable or inestimable
  • subject to change and focus redirected as new evidence emerges during the discovery phase of research
  • research outcome is unpredictable

Genealogical Proof Standard (the GPS): The Genealogical Proof Standard is the research gauge upon which proof is established. It is the high standard currently used within the genealogy community to judge that a research conclusion is accepted as credible, thus proven.  The GPS criteria for meeting the burden of proof regarding our conclusions is expressed in five principle tenets:

  • reasonably exhaustive research (to minimize potential future refutation of conclusions due to insufficient research)
  • accurate citations of sources (to enable retracing of research path and basis of logic)
  • analysis and correlation of evidence (permits accurate and fullest interpretation; evaluation of its quality; determination of its relevance and/or significance)
  • resolution of conflicts (establishes credibility of research/conclusions)
  • arrival of a conclusion expressed in formal writing that is based upon sound reasoning and derived from supportive and convincing evidence

Does your research meet the criteria of the Genealogical Proof Standard?