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Foreword: Outline plan and overall goals
The 300+ Project was launched effectively early in the year 2000. The goal today is still what we started out to do then: “To correct and extend the legacy that Orville (Corson) left for us” in his book Three Hundred Years with the Corson Families in America.
“Questions and Answers” printed in the October 1999 issue of Corson Cousins recognized that this is a BIG effort, more than any one individual working alone can reasonably expect to accomplish. The Project was adopted and continues as a cooperative effort of the CCFHA. Those same Q&A anticipated that “extensive data will have to be collected, organized, and edited for publication before we reach our goal. Some people have suggested this will take three to five years.” Here we are, a little more than five years later, and so far we can claim only to have completed a first phase of the Project: a phase devoted to collecting data and recording it in electronic files. Even that effort is continuing as we now move forward into a new phase of the Project.
In April of this year, following decisions by the CCFHA Board of Trustees earlier in the year, a new Project effort was announced: the Writing Phase. The writing phase seeks to express in publishable text all the information that has been gathered to date, supplemented perhaps by further information as writing proceeds. The CCFHA Board of Trustees adopted an outline plan for the Writing Phase; expressed simply:
A “300+” publication (form to be defined later) will be published by the CCFHA. It is to be written by multiple authors in “modules” as parts of an overall anthology. It is to be produced under the guidance of an editor-in-chief. Major modules are expected to equate with our family Divisions.
The Board asked Gale Corson to serve as Editor-in-Chief; he accepted. He asked Iverne Rinehart to serve as his Associate; she accepted. The two are working together as the “editorial staff“. One of their first commitments was to develop a more extensive plan of action - which is now before you.
No project “phases” were defined when the 300+ Project began, but we decided to concentrate first on data collection and storage. We recognize that effort now as a Data Phase and anticipate several more phases, as follows:
Data Phase - solicitation and accumulation of data submitted by all interested researchers. It included a nation-wide mailing, inviting data submittals from all Corson, Courson, and Coursen families that could be identified. Data from Orville Corson’s book and from the newer submittals were entered, by family Division, into data files using The Master Genealogist software. All of those files are now available for writers to use in their work.
Writing Phase - preparation of text and supportive materials that tell the updated story of the Corson families. Organization of the writing tasks as an anthology of written modules, with writers identified and assigned to their respective modules. Coordination and editing to make sure that the finished modules are ready for publication.
Documentation Phase - collection, organization, and archiving of originals and copies of records, published materials, photographs, and other items that serve to corroborate what writers present during the Writing Phase.
Publication Phase - conversion of text and other materials from the Writing and Documentation phases into a finished “book”. Publication, promotion, and sale of the book.
Conservation Phase - ongoing collection, organization, and maintenance of materials and files, to preserve the evolving and growing history of the Corson families, and to permit future updates in the published records.
The five phases overlap, as shown in the following stylized timelines:
Although conceptually distinct, the Writing Phase and Documentation Phase are mutually supportive and run concurrently. The editorial staff will give leadership to both of those Project phases. Other leadership should be assigned to the Publication and Conservation phases.
An anthology requires cooperative efforts from many writers, and potentially from editors and others who support their work. The basic idea is to split the work into small enough pieces that “many hands make light the work”, each writer concentrating on materials that are familiar to him or her. There are tradeoffs, however. Smaller modules mean more modules and more writers. It may be easier to recruit a writer for a relatively small task, but it takes considerably more effort to recruit more writers, to make sure the scope of their work is integrated and complete, to make sure their work is stylistically coherent, and to keep track of all the ongoing work and communications.
To cope with this, consistent with the “modular” spirit, the editorial staff has organized its own work so the editor-in-chief can concentrate on the oversight of about half of the major modules and the associate editor can concentrate on the rest. The two will continue to share experiences and overall results. We are likewise dividing responsibility for preparing many of the plans, guidelines, and communications needed to “get the project going”. Realistically, the editorial staff can expect by default to be left to share writing responsibilities for a few modules if volunteers cannot be found for them, although the possibility of simply omitting modules will also have to be considered if that time comes.
It’s obvious that a writing phase will require writers. It may not be so obvious that participation will also be needed from others. Although basic writing modules equate to family Divisions, that is only a starting point. Many of those major modules will be written through the joint efforts of several writers, each concentrating on one or more family branches. When this is the preferred writing mode, further editing is needed. The probable course will be to recruit several editors, each with specific responsibility for one major module. In addition to module writers and module editors, we anticipate recruiting people who will support writers by locating information, conducting lookups, collecting documents and photographs, digitizing documents, and most likely in other ways.
The 300+ Project is a cooperative effort: Good communications will be important throughout the Writing Phase. We want to do a good job of communicating with writers and other direct participants, with CCFHA members, with the CCFHA Board, and occasionally with a broader public. In addition, the editorial staff has already engaged in a veritable blitz of internal communications.
The Corson Cousins newsletter is our initiating communications mode of choice, and we will let it govern the timing of most communications, but we will also rely substantially on electronic communications including wide contacts through the CORSON-L list and other electronic forums, and more specifically using email exchanges with module writers and other participants. Most participants, by mutual choice, will have electronic capabilities. Publicity about the Writing Phase has already been distributed through the April 2005 issue of Corson Cousins and through several electronic media.
Communications to module writers will be designed to help them get their work done well. Most topics will be of interest to all writers, so General Guidelines have been prepared for all of them and will be distributed at the onset. Representative topics are content, format, documentation, privacy, and copyrights. Additional special guidelines may be issued latter as needed.
Communications among module writers and other active participants will be available through an Advisory Council. The Council is a forum where ideas, problems, and experiences can be shared. Decisions are made by individuals, not the Council, but their decisions will benefit from the information and opinions. Occasionally the editorial staff may step into a Council discussion, and make decisions that will lead to uniform practices and outcomes: We believe the several modules should share enough common traits that they will be perceived as parts of the total publication.
As writing progresses
we will encourage module writers to seek peer review for what they are
preparing. A decision is pending about the best way to do this, or perhaps
each module can be handled in a way that is best for it alone.
Possibilities, however, include publishing draft materials in the
newsletter or the CCFHA Website, notifications to “all interested”
that one of the writers is seeking help and how to contact that writer, or
“peer review panel” (by Division) could be another category of Project
participants that we attempt to recruit.
Periodic reports are another communications focus. The editorial staff has committed to send monthly email reports to the Board. Written progress reports will be published in the quarterly Corson Cousins newsletters - frequently paralleled with electronic reports to the List and other electronic Corson-forums - to inform CCFHA members and other interested person of progress on the Project. We will also encourage module writers and other participants to keep the editorial staff informed of their progress at least once each quarter.
Success or failure of the 300+ Project Writing Phase will be measured largely by how many people agree to serve as module writers and fill support roles. Initially our efforts are being focused on letting people know about the Writing Phase and its call for writers. We hope quite a few people will be “self-recruiting”.
As the writing “slots” are filled, we expect a few vacancies will become critically obvious, and at that time - perhaps this summer - the editorial staff will become more aggressive in recruiting candidates … not only through the newsletter and electronic forums but also through targeted direct contacts.
If vacancies still persist we may ultimately be faced with choices to assign some of the writing directly to the editorial staff, to delete one or more modules from the “book”, or most likely to defer a module indefinitely (until someone volunteers) meanwhile publishing the rest of the book without it.
Module definitions and assignments
In the broadest outline, it’s easy to define the writing modules by equating them to specific family Divisions. For example, Module One is the writing module that tells the story of Division I, the New England Corson families. The pattern holds true for other family Divisions as well, so we can tell almost at a glance that Module Eleven is the writing module that tells the story of African-American Corson families.
These, however, are only the “major” modules. The larger family Divisions in particular are likely to be divided into smaller modules or sub-modules that address specific branches of the larger family. Division I provides a ready-made example, because we already recognize branches A, B, C, and so forth, based on first-generation children in the family.
The strategy of your editorial staff is to concentrate first on recruiting writers (wherever possible) for the major modules and then later for the sub-modules. We suspect there will be give-and-take shifting in the sub-modules for quite some time. Therefore, with little exception, our current outline of writing modules is limited to the major modules. The outline to date appears as an Exhibit at the end of this report.
When you look at the overall outline of modules you will immediately notice that it begins with Module Zero, the “Common Module”. Please take a moment to understand what is included in Module Zero, and why. Although the heart of a family history may be the traditional birth-marriage-death statistics, there‘s more to the story. In fact, for many of us, the dry b-m-d data aren’t even the most interesting part. We also want to know something of the life and times of the people, what their life stories were, what they accomplished, and what made each of them a little different. We want to read the interesting anecdotes that (if we are lucky) have been passed along within the family. We will strive to record these things for each family within their respective modules. But some supporting information applies in common to all of the Divisions and modules - information about Orville’s book and why we are updating it, about the 300+ Project and the people who are contributing to it, and about the CCFHA itself. All of those things will be collected into Module Zero so it can be said just once, for everyone. And to it we expect to add enriching information like what has been learned from the Translation Project and from the Corson DNA Project. So take a look through the sub-modules we have outlined for Module Zero. We’ve probably overlooked a few interesting topics that should be added, and we’ve intentionally included a few things that are likely to be removed but at least need to be considered. For example, it isn’t clear yet if it will be feasible to include digital images of the key predecessor books including the work of Orville Corson and Hiram Corson.
Although the writing module outline may be close to final, relatively few writing assignments have been made so far. Recruiting writers will be the critical emphasis for the editorial staff in the months immediately ahead.
Activities during the Writing Phase
A wide range of activities will take place during the Writing Phase, in addition to writing, although they will vary greatly from one writing module to the next. An early activity will be the organization and distribution of data files collected and/or developed during the Data Phase. We don’t have data files for every Division, but we want to make sure writers take full advantage of all those we do have.
In many instances writers are likely to encounter “holes” or incomplete information in the records they are using. Although further research during the Writing Phase is not a mandate, we will certainly encourage research where it appears to be feasible and likely to produce further results. Even if writers are unable to conduct research themselves, we will encourage them to use CCFHA resources to pose queries and contact people who may be able to help. The editorial staff may also be able to recruit volunteers willing to conduct limited research. Limited support could prove effective even if it is only to make one copy of an important document in a location not readily available to the writer. We are suggesting that further support may be available from lookup volunteers, from those willing to initiate further research communications, from those who have access to family photo files, and probably from others as well.
A concern we hope each writer will address is adequate documentation, giving validity to what they are writing. We will help writers understand what constitutes good documentation and how to record complete citations. The data files already include some citations, but in many instances the citations are secondary and tertiary - referring writers to primary documentation only indirectly. We will encourage writers to locate primary sources wherever possible, and where sources of any sort can be found we will encourage writers to obtain digital or hard copy images of the originals - not only to verify the validity of what is being written, and not just because some images can be incorporated into the module presentation, but also because we want to keep them in permanent storage (in the CCFHA Research Library) through the Documentation Phase.
When the editorial staff has given writers all the help they can, and authors have completed their writing tasks, and the manuscript reaches your editor-in-chief (probably as an electronic file), several important steps are still required before that module can be ready for publication. We would like to see each “paper” subjected to peer review. Here again we will need volunteers willing to conduct the reviews. Module writers may themselves be able to nominate people for this service, or the editorial staff may need to engage in further recruiting. In some instances it may be necessary to skip this step, but only with reluctance.
In any event, each file will be carefully reviewed and edited by the editorial staff consistent with editorial standards. Wherever possible this will be accomplished by cycling annotated copies back through the author, but we reserve the right to make unilateral changes if necessary
The editorial staff is currently addressing the need for indexing. It is essential that researchers be able to find information readily in the 300+ publication; but to the extent the publication is made available as an electronic file, modern search techniques may be preferable to conventional indexing. This topic will be given further attention.
Schedules and deadlines
It’s too soon to set a firm schedule for the Writing Phase, but it is time to suggest some tentative targets.
The difficulty in setting schedules arises because the 300+ Project is large, loosely defined, has never been done before, and depends on the untried performance of many volunteers. We’ve been working with the 300+ Project for five years so far, always without a schedule or deadlines. But the CCFHA has been criticized for letting the Data Phase extend longer than necessary. Perhaps we should have been setting deadlines.
Deadlines are a problem not just because they are hard to set but also because they are harder yet to meet. This is true even in economic settings where individuals have financial incentives, but with volunteer labor the problem is more pronounced. When deadlines are missed, as inevitably some will be, there is a tendency to be discouraged by the failure and to dwell on it rather than on new goals and the challenges of meeting them.
But schedules and deadlines are also positive factors because with them everyone can cooperate in the challenge of meeting common goals. They are incentives in their own right. When schedules are met they provide further encouragement and reinforcement.
We believe it’s time to set a few early schedules for the Writing Phase even if it is still too soon to predict the eventual end. Fortunately the modular nature of the project allows this. We can set schedules for one module at a time, and we can use that experience to help set schedules for successive modules. Moreover, we can start with the smallest modules, which present least risk of missing a schedule but can give tangible evidence of progress during periods when other modules need more development time.
The accompanying timeline anticipates completion of Module 14 in November of this year, Module 12 three months later in February 2006, and Module 13 three months after that in May 2006. By then we hope to have enough progress on larger modules that one of them can be completed in August of that year - although it‘s difficult to predict which one it will be. If the pattern of completions at three-month intervals can be maintained, we may be able to process all fourteen modules over the course of the next four years. That’s probably a bit optimistic because the most difficult problems are likely to show up late in the cycle, so a little delay is likely. Nonetheless, let’s set our sights on completing the Writing Phase in three to five years, and perhaps it will come to pass. That’s not a firm schedule; it’s a hopeful target.
Writing Phase Timeline (partial and preliminary)
J J A S O N D J F M A M J J A S
Start Module 14 Module 12 Module 11 Module Zero?
A few detailed milestones will help us keep moving along the way. The timeline below shows what we anticipate will happen during a typical writing cycle. The editorial staff will track milestones for each module and writers will get extra follow-up contacts if progress seem to be slipping.
Milestone Timeline for a Typical Writing Module
Start Outline Draft 1 Draft 2 Peer Review Final Edit
Preparations for final publication
The critical phase of the 300+ Project will be publication of the materials prepared during the Writing Phase. They will be adapted for publication, reproduction, sale, and distribution. Schedules, skills, and efforts needed for publication are distinctively different from the Writing Phase, which is why the two phases have been kept separate. A Publications Production Manager has been recommended to head the Publication Phase. Nonetheless it is important to look ahead while we are still in the Writing Phase and anticipate publication requirements, to make sure the publication can be handled well when the time comes.
We are already far enough along in the process that attention can be given to the final publication’s title. So far we have simply referred to “the 300+ Project publication”, and we might yet adopt a catchier “working title”, but coming up with a good final title may take a while and meanwhile it can offer a little fun if we invite suggestions and look for a “winner”. We express those observations as a recommendation.
The final publication will present the modules prepared during the Writing Phase - but probably not in the same order, organization, or time sequence. It’s possible, for example, that CCFHA Divisions I through IV should each be expressed in a separate “volume”, while all the other family Divisions would fit into another volume, and the “Common Module“ (Module Zero) would occupy a final (or initial) volume; but that decision will probably need to take into account how extensive the materials are for each volume, the timing of when modules are released from the Writing Phase, and other factors including cost. Decisions of this sort should be made with participation from the Publications Production Manager.
Specific publication dates will depend on similar factors. There is no reason to believe the materials need to be published in any particular order or according to a particular schedule, except as determined by these factors.
On the other hand, the schedule proposed for the early part of the Writing Phase suggests that sufficient materials from the Writing Phase may be available as early as August of 2006 to warrant an initial publication release. We are recommending that efforts be made to select a Publications Production Manager about six months earlier, in February 2006.
Among the reasons why a Publications Production Manager will be needed well in advance of the first publication release is that decisions and action will be needed affecting the final publication mode (or modes), sales promotion, and funding. Alternative publication modes could involve an existing publisher or require the CCFHA to serve as the publisher. Further decisions, driven perhaps by cost considerations, will determine how much of the publication will be printed and how much will be released only in electronic form such as DVD disks. Until then, decisions during the Writing Phase assume only that several modes are possible, and therefore that preparations need to be flexible enough to accommodate any later decision.
The Data Phase has been pursued with little demand on the CCFHA treasury. A little postage, some data disks, and a few phone calls pretty well describe the extent of the costs, and most of those were picked up by volunteers working on the Project.
The Writing Phase may cost a little more, but once again most of its costs will come from postage, data disks, phone calls, and perhaps a little printing. These shouldn’t total much of a demand on the CCFHA treasury, especially if individual volunteers pay some of the costs out of their own pockets. The costs are similar enough to other normal expenses that a separate budget probably isn’t needed. Even if a decision is made to pre-publish piecemeal releases of draft materials rather extensively for review, the costs can probably be subsumed within the normal Corson Cousins budgets.
The Documentation Phase is more likely to prompt a separate line item within the budget. To the extent that writers and other participants need to make extensive copies of documents and send them to the CCFHA for storage in the permanent repository, we want to encourage action by offering to reimburse expenses. We have no prior experience with this, but anticipate that $100 per year might be set aside for this purpose, starting with the current year.
The Publication Phase is where special funding will become particularly important, although it is still too early to anticipate a budget level. During past years we have received a few small contributions earmarked for the Project or its publication. However, there have been no separate appeals for contributions to support the 300+ Project. The future will require more aggressive funding efforts, which again is a reason for the Publications Production Manager to begin work at a fairly early date.
Exhibit: Outline of Writing Modules
Module Zero: The Central Module (see reverse for more detail)
Module One: Division I: New England Corson Family
Module Two: Division II: Sussex County, New Jersey Corson Family
Module Three: Division III: Staten Island, New York Corson Family
Module Four: Division IV: Cape May / Southern New Jersey Corson Family
Module Five: Division V: Corson Families from Great Britain
Module Six: Division VI: Corson Families from Germanic Countries
Module Seven: Division VII: Hunterdon County, New Jersey Corson Family
Module Eight: (a null module inserted to keep in step with Corson family Divisions)
Module Nine: Division IX: Corson Families from Europe (other than V and VI)
Module Ten: Division X: Unclassified Corson Families
Module Eleven: Division XI: African-American Corson Families
Module Twelve: Division XII: Indian / Native American Corson Families
Module Thirteen: Division XIII: Corson Families from Canada and Other Americas
Module Fourteen: Division XIV: Corson Families from the Rest of the World
Table of Contents
Introduction; the 300+ Project
Recording the Past
Ullman: The Coursens, from 1612 to 1917
Colsons: Cursonwhit I and II
Corson Families in Groups: Divisions
Libraries and Documents; library/research resources
Missing Documentation; the search for Orville's notes
The 300+ Project
Digital Images: Courson Cousins, Corson Cousins, indexes CC and other publications, Orville Corson’s 300 Years, Hiram Corson’s The Corson Family, Ullman’s monograph, Colsons’ books
CCFHA Resources file
CCFHA Research Library Catalog
Corson Census Compendium
Possibly: other historical, cultural, statistical, and interpretive materials
The foregoing topics are not necessarily all we want to include, and we may not want to include all of the topics listed (to be determined). The topics will be further organized into groups with “chapter” headings.
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