The
 Little Book
      of
Documentation
        ~
 Anita Cheria -- Edwin

         ~
the little book of documentation
anita cheria; edwin
September 2004 [second edition]
first published 1999

© authors
all p...
inside information
1    What is documentation?              4
2    Before you start                    7
                 ...
1
      What is documentation?
   So you want to do documentation. This book
will tell you how. We will go from the basics...
retrieve, and put to work for you, in time. It does
not matter how much information you have. If
you have a million book l...
· Share knowledge, innovation and new
  technologies.
· For advocacy. To change how people think,
  and then how they act....
2
            Before you start
   Documentation is one of the easiest things to
do, if we follow a few simple guidelines a...
rural or urban, interests, income, and what else
she reads.
WHEN is the document needed?
  At an event? A season? Work you...
Now decide the following.
· Language.
  ° Which language will be used?
  ° How specialized or how technical?
  ° How forma...
· Quantity.
  ° How much do we need? It is normally
    cheaper to go in for reprints than go for a
    higher print run t...
3
                     The ABCs
  The ABCs of documentation are:
   Accuracy,
   Brevity, and
   Clarity.

Accuracy
   Alw...
to be communicated has to be in a page. For
anything more, follow the rule:
   First, tell the readers what you are going ...
are not sure how long your write up should be,
then it is better to be as short as possible. If your
article is really int...
may be bad ‘literature’ but it is good writing. It
helps people understand with the minimum of
effort. Cliches and jargon ...
be able to explain even the most complex ideas
in simple words. If not, most people try to
dazzle using bombastic language...
When Raj Kapoor was making movies, he
always advised his music directors and song
writers to keep the songs simple. He sai...
writer is successful only when the writing is read.
Not for nothing do we have the phrase simplicity
of genius.
   The rul...
The same report could have variations in
nuance to capture the interest of the reader. The
same factual statement can be r...
For NGOs
  Adivasi attempts to claim their rights are a major
 cause of the atrocities against them. The police side
 with...
4
   Other related considerations
Proximity
   There are several rules to be followed. All are
meant to be broken. The fir...
If you are writing for an African audience
regarding the progress of India, you could start
by telling them that both Indi...
or
   Every language in India has more speakers
 than the total population of any two European
 countries.
  That holds th...
five year plan. But it spent Rupees 40,000 crores
 on the dearness allowance [DA] alone—
 excluding salaries and other per...
Defining moments
   Everyone likes to hear of acts of courage, and
defining moments because of the human element
involved....
Humour
   This is one surefire way to keep the reader’s
attention. Putting two unconnected and
sometimes contradictory iss...
misunderstood and achieve the very opposite of
what is aimed at. There are wet blankets.
NGOs—whether non government organ...
5
         Political correctness
   The sensitivities of people, specially the
excluded and the marginalized, must be take...
the nineties woman, by Gita Aravamundan. PC
stands for politically correct.
   Nineties PC is not always relevant to the I...
instrument for Muslim bashing. ‘No dowry’
means the daughters do not get a share of
ancestral property. ‘Conversions’ mean...
6
         General conventions
   The conventions for credit and references have
evolved over time—and are still evolving....
they have subsequently realized that the
researcher has made use of them. This is also the
reason that people now ask ‘you...
At the same time, do not be apologetic or
defensive. Though the people at the grassroots
have the knowledge and, perhaps t...
Ask yourself, does the reader need to know
this? Always keep the reader in mind. In this
book we have mentioned those whom...
In the bibliography, at the end of the book or
article, mention all their names.
   The second time onwards, use either ib...
If you are quoting, put the original comments
and authors brackets in rounded brackets ‘( )’ and
your own additions in squ...
7
          Getting information
   All those involved in documentation should
have access to the latest information. This ...
In fact, ‘women’ itself is so comprehensive as
to merit quite a few specialist resource centres. It
is best to be more spe...
the first time you read itself. Very often pious
intentions of getting back to important passages
at the second reading re...
good source. You should have access to the latest
census data, the world reports, the status of
children and women and the...
8
               Letter writing
   Your letter should be well drafted and
designed. It is often the first contact a person...
reader—many people throw such letters into the
dust bin—or that the person is very dictatorial,
highly insecure and cannot...
Example
  From
  Change Agents
  23, Market Street, Bagalur Village and Post
  India 110103

  To
  The India Desk Officer...
Personal
    We live in a very depersonalized and
depersonalizing world. Letters help us regain that
human touch. Always w...
9
           Project proposals
   Project proposals and other such requests for
support are important documents. In them y...
three benches instead, if you do that in a
government programme be prepared for endless
rounds of questioning and also sto...
analysis. If you feel your estimates are on the
higher or lower side, it is better to explain why.
   Send the proposal to...
necessary, then they will either make an
exception, or direct you to the right place. Lack
of money has never stopped a de...
·   What are the problems foreseen in trying to
    solve these issues?
·   What is the position of the community within
 ...
History
·   Accomplishments.
·   Strengths.
·   Weaknesses.
·   Problems encountered.
·   Lessons learnt.
·   Steps taken ...
·  Expansion of geographical reach.
·  Plans to become self–supporting.
·  Possible withdrawal strategies and time.
 This ...
Project preparation
    This is sometimes called need identification.
·     How did you identify this need?
·     Who plan...
·   Can the project become self–supporting at some
    time in the future?
·   How does the project help in making the
   ...
10
         Project report writing
   A good project report ensures that your next
proposal is sanctioned. Keep as close t...
field reality, and will appreciate respect for their
intelligence.
   Government departments and institutional
donors have...
11
                Case study
   All interventions have specific impact. Some
of it can be expressed through numbers—human...
support and hostility, the personal traumas.
Remember, we are documenting a human story.
Do not hesitate to bring in the h...
A good case study can be written in 250 words
or less. The following case study is to illustrate
the point that men and wo...
Towards self–sustenance: A fistful of rice
   Programmes cannot be self sustaining if outside input
is required forever. S...
The paternal state syndrome
  One illustration of the breath of intervention is that at
the anganawadi. The instance of to...
programme for fifty children at the cost of just Rupees
800 per month to itself.
  The children now are in the balawadi th...
Change Agents’ action plan of involving the people,
 the government, and external supporters, is in the light
 of this sce...
12
             Process reports
   A process report is to documentation what
systems analysis is to computers. It needs a
...
implementing levels, [they are different!] policy
making and implementing bodies are necessary to
give a holistic picture....
sitting in a corner of the room that had about 80 to 90
women. When it was proposed that the meeting start
with a prayer s...
The sharing was on everyday matters at first, and then
went on to more general themes of common good.
Children’s education...
Environment
  The village common lands were not being put to the
best possible use. So the women asked the
authorities— bo...
women decided to go directly to the electricity office
and meet the concerned person.
   Twenty women walked more than fiv...
of their home on the particular day. He was gently
reminded that he was supposed to be a public servant.
When he did not a...
there before him. He asked them how they had
managed to get there so soon from their villages. When
they replied that they...
keep it small, so that they could solve the problems in
their village. They felt that if they could solve the
problems in ...
them as part of the welcome song. All this was a heady
mix. Tears glittered in the eyes of many women in this
emotionally ...
The vendors were told that the union would
recommend alternate income generation programmes
for them. Though they were ost...
were voted out of power, and the new government is
not so sympathetic.
   Twenty thousand women signed a petition to Chief...
the Chief Minister, is quite a journey. The
 self–confidence gained on the way is enormous. She is
 recognized all over th...
The rather heavy report is made slightly bearable
[we hope!] with the use of subheads.
   The paragraphs in the conversati...
13
           Workshop reports
   Workshop reports need to highlight the
content. Keep in mind why you are reporting the
w...
has to get it right the first time. A writer has a lot
more time to polish it up.
   Reports should be published only if t...
requests to justify publication. For the sponsors, a
two page summary and a set of resolutions will
be sufficient.
    If ...
14
  Making documents attractive
   Most authors put in a lot of effort on their text.
That is good. Once the text is read...
The text design
   Layout and design are important contributors
to readability. Avoid too many references and
asides, it m...
Use simple, strong design. Effective design in
type means: a typeface that is easy to read and a
type that is large enough...
previous page itself. Similarly for paragraphs.
Paragraphs should not end with just a word on
one line. Edit those also. U...
15
                Computers
   Should you use computers? If you are
systematic, go ahead. If not avoid it like the
plague...
The Little Book Of Documentation
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The Little Book Of Documentation

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Base material for our documentation course... and a primer for anyone wanting to do documentation for NGOs--from letters to proposals to reports, newsletters and books

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The Little Book Of Documentation

  1. 1. The Little Book of Documentation ~ Anita Cheria -- Edwin ~
  2. 2. the little book of documentation anita cheria; edwin September 2004 [second edition] first published 1999 © authors all parts of this book may be reproduced, with acknowledgment, for non–profit use sold at print cost, provided that each subsequent reproduction is also non–profit and carries this note. copies to us would be appreciated. kindly contact us for special concessional rates for educational institutions. printed at st paul publications, nagasandra, 8th mile, tumkur road, bangalore, india—560073 p: +91–80–8395962; e: paulsind@bom4.vsnl.net.in. published by Goodbookz, 125/1, main 5, cross 15, block 2, bangalore, india—560032 p: 91(0) 94-4848-4797 e: goodbookz@yahoo.co.uk Price India:— Rupees 150.00; abroad:—US$ 15.00 PAPA 91–601302–001—003—A the little book of documentation 2
  3. 3. inside information 1 What is documentation? 4 2 Before you start 7 the skills 3 The ABCs 11 4 Other related considerations 20 5 Political correctness 27 6 General conventions 30 7 Getting information 36 internal documents 8 Letter writing 40 9 Project proposals 44 10 Project report writing 53 11 Case study 55 12 Process reports 62 13 Workshop reports 76 14 Making documents attractive 79 15 Computers 83 16 Information management 90 17 The writers’ check list 93 into the public domain 18 Public domain writing 98 19 Publishing 109 20 Publicity and reviews 124 21 Unsold publications 130 22 Responsibility 132 23 End note 139
  4. 4. 1 What is documentation? So you want to do documentation. This book will tell you how. We will go from the basics of reporting, to case studies, to the more comprehensive process reporting, and then to writing a book. We will have a brief look at ways of making your report attractive to the reader by using different fonts and also page layouts. Then on to publication and distribution. All from the point of you, the author. This book first deals with the basic writing skills that you will develop. Then the skills and tips for specialized tasks. First the trade and then the tricks of the trade. Let us start from the most basic principles of writing. Documentation is literally the preparation of documents, or keeping records. It combines the mundane journalistic skill of mere superficial reporting with a more keen eye for detail. Documentation can be written, or audio visual. In this book we will use ‘documentation’ to mean the written skill only. Documentation is to writing what a documentary is to cinema. The second most important part of documentation is how much information you can the little book of documentation 4
  5. 5. retrieve, and put to work for you, in time. It does not matter how much information you have. If you have a million book library, and cannot access the particular information that you need in time, you are actually worse off than a person who does not have a library at all. Why document at all? All documents must be intelligent, intelligible, coherent and interesting. The most important part of documentation is getting people to read your document. For that reason, publication and distribution form a major, and integral, part of documentation, and this book. NGO documentation is primary for these reasons. · To support your work. This includes: ° Training manuals. ° Literature for beneficiaries. In this case distribution is taken for granted. · To share ideas and experiences, so that others can use them. These include: ° Case studies. But be clear about their appropriateness. Does anyone really want to read them? · Capture indigenous knowledge since it is needed and fast disappearing. the little book of documentation 5
  6. 6. · Share knowledge, innovation and new technologies. · For advocacy. To change how people think, and then how they act. · Policy analysis. · As a part of a campaign. · To raise credibility. ° It could be an ambassador for the organization and make its expertise visible. · To become an information provider on a specific topic. · To generate income. Decide which of these reasons is the one for you. A myth is that good writers write perfectly the first time itself. Not so. Each document undergoes many revisions before it is even half way presentable. It takes time and effort. Yet, good quality documents are not difficult. Do you take photos? Then think of it this way. Every photo cannot be good. And, in professional photography, one star photograph in ten rolls and you are lucky! But it is only for special occasions that professionals are got in. For most occasions, the simple focus–free camera is better. And you can do wonders with just a little bit of effort. Concentrate on your successes and strong points. the little book of documentation 6
  7. 7. 2 Before you start Documentation is one of the easiest things to do, if we follow a few simple guidelines and remember basic human psychology. Before you even put pen on paper, it is best to use the ‘WH’ rules, in this order. We will be using these rules again while writing. WHY am I documenting this? Have a measurable response to this. Normally it is for three reasons. · To inform. · To persuade. · A call to action. WHAT do I want to say? Say it in one sentence as a check against overloading, and a check for clarity. A saint was once asked to explain his philosophy standing on one foot, in one sentence without taking a breath. A good practice for all writers as well. WHO is the intended reader? Have just one reader in mind, preferably a real person. Then the writing will flow better. Think of the person in terms of gender, age, education, the little book of documentation 7
  8. 8. rural or urban, interests, income, and what else she reads. WHEN is the document needed? At an event? A season? Work your deadlines backwards. For instance, if the document is needed on 15 August 1947, then you should start writing much earlier. Say a week for the actual writing, two weeks for interviews and reference, a week for editing, two weeks for typesetting and proof, and two weeks for printing. Add another one week ‘just in case’. So you’d have to start writing nine weeks earlier—on 7 June 1947 itself. And this is being quite optimistic. WHERE is the document going to be used? · In libraries. · In the field. · How long does it have to last? After these ‘W’ questions, we come to the ‘H’. HOW? This is the final step, and is to be done only after the previous questions have been answered fully. If the process has been followed, then how the document will best suit the intended reader will be clear. the little book of documentation 8
  9. 9. Now decide the following. · Language. ° Which language will be used? ° How specialized or how technical? ° How formal, emotional or factual? ° How simple a vocabulary? ° Which measurement units to use? [This is specially so for translations]. · Medium [Which is best: print, audio visual?]. · Format [book, brochure...]. · Formality of design. · Length. ° How much information should be given? Your document can often be twice as good if it is half as long. ° Simplify and reduce, but do not leave out facts. Be careful, don’t change the idea. Should we publish? All documents must be interesting. But all documents need not be published. If the intended audience is large, and the purpose supports it, then it may be better to publish. Even if you do not want to publish the document, it would be fruitful to go through these additional questions. the little book of documentation 9
  10. 10. · Quantity. ° How much do we need? It is normally cheaper to go in for reprints than go for a higher print run the first time. · Budgets. ° This decides the quantity to be printed and the quality of the printing material. ° How much people can pay for the material could also decide this. If you do not have this information, it is likely that you are documenting for someone else. In that case, get a written terms of reference. The terms of reference should include the end use of the report, the preferred style, and the audience for whom the report is written. Writing a report, printing a report, and publishing a report are three different things. They are specialized tasks, and should not be confused with each other. Write a report always. Print only if more than 200 people are willing to pay for it. Publish it if it is of relevance to a larger body and if you can ensure that you will distribute over 60% of your print run within the first year. Publish only what has lasting value for the general public. Be committed to a strong distribution system if you publish. the little book of documentation 10
  11. 11. 3 The ABCs The ABCs of documentation are: Accuracy, Brevity, and Clarity. Accuracy Always be accurate in your facts. Facts are sacred, but comment is free. Do not understate or overstate. It might not bring you instant stardom, but once your integrity is recognized, your reward will be much more long lasting. Don’t get carried away by your own analysis and opinions. Do point out the unusual. But overall, give the people the facts, and let them come to the conclusions themselves. Treat them as adults. They will give you the same respect. The duty of a writer is to report facts and reflect reality. Good news should not be manufactured. But even the most macabre can be reported and documented with sensitivity. Brevity Brevity is the soul of wit, and all good writing. In this world no one has the time to read through large articles, unless they are forced to. What has the little book of documentation 11
  12. 12. to be communicated has to be in a page. For anything more, follow the rule: First, tell the readers what you are going to tell them. Next, tell them. Finally, tell them what you told them. That is what we are doing in this book. The first paragraph of the first chapter told you what we are going to tell you. Then the whole body of the book tells you. We have skipped a summing up chapter—which would have told you what we told you. By the end of the book, you wouldn’t need it anyway. So we decided to save on the trees, the paper and printing costs. Instead we put in the check lists. Avoid asides. This chapter could have started ‘The ABCs of driving are the accelerator, brake and clutch. Similarly, the ABCs of writing are..’. The reader may like it, but does not need it. It does not add anything. The present opening is much crisper. Keeping your document brief makes people want to read it. Short documents reduce the cost of production and distribution. Generally a newspaper article should be about 1200 words, any other article about 1500 to 2000 words. Specialist journals have varying requirements, most often between 4500 and 5000 words, and a book 25,000 words upwards. If you the little book of documentation 12
  13. 13. are not sure how long your write up should be, then it is better to be as short as possible. If your article is really interesting, then the editor will get back to you and ask you to expand on ideas. All that you know need not be put into one article—or one book. The golden rule is: be short, be sweet, be gone. People simply do not have the time to read through long winding reports or books, and people whom we would like to influence value their time in minutes, if not seconds. The one minute manager is a reality in all walks of life. Clarity Remember, what is very clear to you need not be so for the reader. Use short sentences. Use simple words. The objective of a writer is to make the readers understand what is written, not to overawe them with words they don’t. At the end of the day, people prefer the writer who talks to them, not the one who talks down at them—or one whose writings need a dictionary as a companion volume. Be particularly careful about words that you normally use. They can have different meanings for a person with a different background. Avoid jargon, unless you are writing for a very small group that you know intimately. Using cliches the little book of documentation 13
  14. 14. may be bad ‘literature’ but it is good writing. It helps people understand with the minimum of effort. Cliches and jargon should be used only to make things easier to understand. How many really understand—or would want to—what a ‘paradigm shift’ is? Yet how often is it used in NGO meetings?! Good ‘literature’ often gets critical acclaim and left on the shelf. Unless what one writes is read, the very purpose of writing is defeated. Consider the following sentence: Community building for improving the lot of BPL is a good strategy, that has proved its worth. This seems to be a fairly straight forward piece of writing, but in the NGO sector ‘community building’, means organizing the people. BPL, for the government and those working for poverty eradication means the people ‘below poverty line’ and not the popular electronics company! There is actually the case of an auditor who wanted to see the ‘community building’ before he signed the audit statement. One possible alternative is to spell it out: Organizing the poor... If you are sure of your subject—and you shouldn’t be writing otherwise—then you will the little book of documentation 14
  15. 15. be able to explain even the most complex ideas in simple words. If not, most people try to dazzle using bombastic language. It is our experience that non-creative academics are most prone to insecurity, and thus try to hide behind obscure language. Here are three ways in which a common task can be obscured by the expert cited by Richard Saul Warman in his book ‘follow the yellow brick road’. Name something that involves: · An understanding of geometry, spatial relations, algebra, manual dexterity, strategic planning and allotment of resources. · Many technical processes, arithmetic, timing, aeration, biology and behavior of materials. · Politics, economics, linesiology, game strategy, psychology and sociology. The answers, incredibly enough, are making a dress, following a recipe and football. When an author writes ‘I hope this project will initiate a mutually rewarding editor-author relationship’ the editor knows the meaning is ‘I hope you will publish my article’. It is usually better to write ‘use a spade’ rather than ‘employ a geotome’. If you write employ a geotome, the reader might use it on your work first. the little book of documentation 15
  16. 16. When Raj Kapoor was making movies, he always advised his music directors and song writers to keep the songs simple. He said that he wanted songs that ‘people can hum on the way back from the movie, and whistle during work the next day’ and not technically perfect songs that win critical acclaim, appreciation from the audience, and are forgotten. When Karl Marx wanted to inform he wrote a book: Das Kapital. He refused to simplify it for, as he told his publisher, the working class will understand it as it concerns them. When he wanted to persuade, he wrote a tract: The communist manifesto. But when he needed a call to action he coined a slogan: ‘Workers of the world unite’. Any guesses which is remembered most? How many, even among the intelligentsia, have read Das Kapital? All are needed, but the purpose is different. Use the word with the exact meaning that you require. Use the simplest words. Development literature does not need flowery language nor the wealth of the dictionary. Use words to communicate, not to impress. The task of the writer is to demystify. Naturally, that cannot be done if what is being written about is a mystery to the writer also. A the little book of documentation 16
  17. 17. writer is successful only when the writing is read. Not for nothing do we have the phrase simplicity of genius. The rule to watch here is KISS MII [pronounced kiss me], keep it short and simple, make it interesting. The first, obviously, need not always apply in real life kisses, but the second? Always. The ‘Wh’ rules How do we start? The easiest way is to answer these following questions: What, who, when, where, why and how. You are more than half way there already. Then come back and fill in the details. Asking the right questions is an art, more difficult than getting the right answers, and requires more skill. What happened, and to whom? When and where did it happen? Why did it happen, and how? The order is not rigid. For instance, if the place is the most important, or ‘newsworthy’, part of the story, then the ‘where’ comes first. The model could be a newspaper report that answers all these questions in the first paragraph itself. The next paragraph elaborates on some of the important information and the third typically gives background information. the little book of documentation 17
  18. 18. The same report could have variations in nuance to capture the interest of the reader. The same factual statement can be reported differently for different audiences. Editing out irrelevant details, and simplifying the language are part of the effort. Example For a general audience The fiftieth anniversary of Indian Independence was celebrated on 15 August 1997, at Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi, by President K R Narayanan. For a dif ferent audience The first Dalit President of India, K R Narayanan, celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Indian Independence on 15 August 1997, at Rashtrapathi Bhavan in New Delhi. Another example For the government The prime minister said that attempts by the adivasi to claim their rights are the major cause of the atrocities against them. Government servants are implicated. For the police The police are often guilty of colluding with the criminals when the adivasi try to claim their rights said the prime minister today. the little book of documentation 18
  19. 19. For NGOs Adivasi attempts to claim their rights are a major cause of the atrocities against them. The police side with the criminals said the prime minister. This is what the prime minister actually said. Attempts by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to break away from this syndrome of deprivation and improve their lot and claim what is rightfully theirs, are often the principal cause of the atrocities that are perpetrated on them. There is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the police and the district administration... The law enforcers themselves, in many cases, fail to act promptly or collude with the other side. In all the reports, the prime minister is mentioned since the authenticity and impact of this well known fact is reinforced by who said it. To whom he said it, when [at the inaugural of the meeting of chief ministers on 4 October 1991] and where [in New Delhi] are not nearly so important. They could be omitted or retained depending on the audience you are writing for. the little book of documentation 19
  20. 20. 4 Other related considerations Proximity There are several rules to be followed. All are meant to be broken. The first is called the ‘proximity’ rule. People are interested in what is near to them—and interested in what they are already interested in. All of us like news about our native place. News about humans takes precedence over animals, and animals over plants. In animals, those more human than, say, a new species of lizard. This is the way human nature is now. Perhaps at some future date we might be interested in all equally, but till then reporting should follow this. Pegging: intellectual judo How do we get someone interested in what we are interested in, and what is only of passing or no interest to them? The answer is pegging—like pegging the Indian experience on the African. First talk about what interests them. Then, once you hold their interest, connect it to what interests you. This is called ‘pegging’ because you peg your idea on their interest—just as in judo you use your opponent’s strength. the little book of documentation 20
  21. 21. If you are writing for an African audience regarding the progress of India, you could start by telling them that both India and Africa went through bitter colonial experiences. This makes the problems, trials, and successes of India easier for the audience to identify with, and thus to understand. This rule actually follows from a rather elementary practice: speak in the language the listener understands. Similarly, use the idiom the reader understands. Pen–paint It is difficult to read and understand abstractions—particularly new ideas and concepts. So try not to write, but pen paint. Use imagery—the more vivid the better. Human beings think in images. Capture their imagination, and you capture your audience. Years later, the reader might forget everything else but the idea—simply due to the vividness of the image you drew. A picture is worth a thousand words. Read the following example: The undivided Koraput district in Orissa was larger than Keralam. Keralam is larger than all but three European countries. Yet Keralam is only 2% of the Indian land mass. the little book of documentation 21
  22. 22. or Every language in India has more speakers than the total population of any two European countries. That holds the readers attention than: Most European countries are very small. In India, we tend to think in terms of lakhs [100,000, a hundred thousand] and crores [10,000,000, ten million]. The Americans think in millions and billions. Try this one. One billion is one thousand million. Most people do not know the scale of the difference—for all we can grasp is the ‘one’ in each. It is the peter principle at work. This could be approached in a different way: A man gave his wife a million Rupees and told her to spend a thousand Rupees a day and come back. She came back in three years. Next he gave her a billion Rupees and to her to do the same. She did not get back for three thousand years. A rather pleasant thought! Contrasts Another way to hold the reader’s interest is the use of contrasts. For instance: The Government of India says that rural development is a priority and spends Rupees 30,000 crores on rural development in the eighth the little book of documentation 22
  23. 23. five year plan. But it spent Rupees 40,000 crores on the dearness allowance [DA] alone— excluding salaries and other perks—of its employees, who form just one percent of the population. Rural India is about 80% of the Indian population. After the pay commission the increase for the central government employees was Rupees 7,500 crores. The annual rural development budget is just over Rupees 6,000 crores! The turnover of TATA is over 10,000 crores. The same information can be rephrased: The pension and salaries of past and present government employees is over 2% of GDP. Or One litre of milk costs Rupees 10.00. One litre of water, Rupees 15.00. Or another... It is easy for a brave and heroic man to rape women, burn to death sleeping children, and destroy places of worship in the name of god and a ‘noble cause’. These are the opening lines from the sub-section of The Oxfam handbook of development and relief on ‘the farmer’. Most agricultural literature assumes that farmers are men. Most extension workers are men. Most agricultural training courses are for men. In reality, most farmers are women. the little book of documentation 23
  24. 24. Defining moments Everyone likes to hear of acts of courage, and defining moments because of the human element involved. The rather dry voluntary sector reporting hides many such exciting moments. Bring them out. Example In one of the defining moments of the organization, the founder asked the team individually, and in private, whether they would be willing to continue working even if he could not pay them a salary. Basic necessities would be provided. The eight who agreed were trained to become leaders in their own right. Alternately There was an undercurrent of excitement. Yet no one knew why. It was only later that we—eight of us—knew we had crossed one of the defining moments of the organization. Anathan, the founder, asked the team individually, and in private, whether we would be willing to continue working even if he could not pay us a salary. Basic necessities would be provided. We agreed, but at the time it was a leap into the unknown. We were then trained to become leaders. Just a few words changed. But the difference is striking. the little book of documentation 24
  25. 25. Humour This is one surefire way to keep the reader’s attention. Putting two unconnected and sometimes contradictory issues close together makes an impression. So also modifying popular sayings. Familiarity breeds. The law often permits what justice and common sense do not. For some reason, telling the truth is the most humorous of all. It is better to have loved and lost than not to have lost at all. There is no horse trading in parliament because there are only asses there. Even a dry, serious, piece has the potential for some sardonic comment, as for instance on the murder of 90% of the tribal and indigenous peoples in America by the Europeans. When Columbus’ men reached the shore, they fell on their knees and then on the natives. All the arms in the world do not provide the security of one embrace. You cannot buy a soldier’s honour, but you can get him to kill for a piece of cloth and a scrap of metal. Remember, though, that humour is quite parochial. In different circumstances it can be the little book of documentation 25
  26. 26. misunderstood and achieve the very opposite of what is aimed at. There are wet blankets. NGOs—whether non government organizations or non gazetted officers—are not going to take kindly to a person who calls them no good organizations or officers! Most would also wonder what is so funny about calling CIA ‘caught in the act’, or IAS to mean I am stupid. Try to keep humour down to earth, which more people can relate to, than cerebral humour which may be above the heads of your audience. the little book of documentation 26
  27. 27. 5 Political correctness The sensitivities of people, specially the excluded and the marginalized, must be taken into account. A few years ago it was OK to talk of the handicapped, then it became disabled, and now it is challenged: the visually challenged, etc. It is not mentally challenged though. The right terminology is ‘differently enabled’. Similarly from depressed classes, to harijans, to SC/ST to Dalit. Within the country itself, there is a lot of debate if one should use Dalit or not. It seems to be OK where the Dalit movement is strong, not so in others. In some places it is actually hated. Gender bias Fortunately, there are enough gender–sensitive words that we can use. If you do not know who is going to chair a session, for instance, use the generic chairperson or chair. If you do, use chairman or chairwoman as appropriate. Similarly for spokespersons... When we become sensitized to age we will probably use chairson and chair daughter. The following is from The Times of India, Bangalore, 10 January 1998, pc vocabulary for the little book of documentation 27
  28. 28. the nineties woman, by Gita Aravamundan. PC stands for politically correct. Nineties PC is not always relevant to the Indian context. I’ve coined up a few definitions which the Indian writers on gender issues might consider using: Adjusting: [She was an adjusting wife, mother...] personality obliterated human being. Allow: [I allow my wife to work] patriarchal ‘consent’ given to an independent woman. Bride burning: gender specific matrimonial arson. Dowry harassment: victimization of involuntary recipient of matrimonial inheritance. Domestically trained or homely: [in matrimonial advertisements] willing domestic slave. Eve teasing: street sexual harassment Female Foeticide: gender selective foetal carnage. Female infanticide: gender selective infant massacre. The article itself has a large part written in ‘aggressive feminist pc vocabulary’ and is quite instructive. Use of humyn, instead of human is also advocated. Some NGOs, and we, use the feminine ‘she’ to include the masculine ‘he’. Short–hand codes Be aware of the short–hand codes: merit, for instance could mean no reservation nor affirmative action. Beneath very progressive labels hide some very reactionary ideas. The ‘uniform civil code’ is another political the little book of documentation 28
  29. 29. instrument for Muslim bashing. ‘No dowry’ means the daughters do not get a share of ancestral property. ‘Conversions’ mean it is OK to rape defenseless women, and burn sleeping children, and ‘dharma’ to kill the Dalits. Keep your antenna out. Being politically correct is important. Otherwise you might alienate your readers. On the other hand, going full tilt with a fad may make a bulk of the readership wonder what you are talking about. Euphemisms are constantly going out of date, and new ones must be invented as the old become more explicit needing yet another level of veiling. Writing alone has not changed the world, and never think that your writing alone can. The burden of change is on all—and will outlast us all. By all means write with messianic fervour or missionary zeal but don’t use the club when the rapier will do, and always try the feather first. the little book of documentation 29
  30. 30. 6 General conventions The conventions for credit and references have evolved over time—and are still evolving. Due to the all pervasive computer, the standardization has been to the American system. It differs only slightly from the British who, with the loss of their empire, have also lost the right to set the standards of the world. Rest assured that there is no ‘correct’ way. The only need is to be consistent, and to ensure that your idea is conveyed. Giving credit Acknowledgments are often the bane of a researcher. A person with a doctorate often has the bitter experience of the ‘guide’ or senior professor taking credit for the researchers’ work, and therefore continues this practice. This is an unfortunate reality. A people’s scientist should strive to get beyond this syndrome. Give credit freely and wholeheartedly. Mention all those who have helped in any way and how they have made this work possible. Do not tuck it away in small print. There are many researchers who dare not enter the places where they did research—the people are so hostile since the little book of documentation 30
  31. 31. they have subsequently realized that the researcher has made use of them. This is also the reason that people now ask ‘you will get your doctorate, what will we get?’ Spend time with the people. Tell them what you have written about them. Explain how you are going to use the information. Reporters of many newspapers and magazines have the policy of not showing the final transcript to the concerned persons before printing. Do not follow that line. If our objective is smooth social change, it is best to carry all sections, as far as possible. Most people will be content to know that this option is available. Give lots of credit to everyone and anyone even remotely connected with the work. You can afford to. The people give their time and knowledge freely—knowledge that is gained through generations of actual field experience and experimentation—unlike the academics who often demand consultancy charges to share the information that they have got freely from the people. The least you can do is to acknowledge your sources. Mention how you were helped by each individual. Contrary to popular perception, it actually enhances the reputation. The people will love you for it. the little book of documentation 31
  32. 32. At the same time, do not be apologetic or defensive. Though the people at the grassroots have the knowledge and, perhaps the skills, they do not write much. As long as the writer acknowledges that the field work is being done by others, there is no reason why the writer should not claim credit for breaking the story, though others are more knowledgeable and have been ‘working on the issue’ for decades. Those who carp on that are usually those who want to retain their fiefs. There is no need for writers to obey their dictum. Acknowledge and give full credit to those who are working on the field. But take full responsibility—if not the credit—for your report. Respect the people, but do not romanticize them. Acknowledge and value their contribution, but do not undervalue yours. References Build the references into the text. Give all the details in a bibliography at the end. Keep these sort of references and notes to the minimum. They are more an indication of insecurity, lack of scholarship and of pedantry than of knowledge. Any halfway intelligent senior school student can compile a good bibliography. Only a creative person can come up with new ideas. the little book of documentation 32
  33. 33. Ask yourself, does the reader need to know this? Always keep the reader in mind. In this book we have mentioned those whom we have quoted. Has it helped your understanding? Would it have been better to put at the end, and explain each one’s contribution? You decide. Then do the same for your books. If you must use footnotes, then the first time a reference is quoted, you could give the whole reference as a footnote. The format is: author; name of book; publisher; year; page number. The author’s last name is given first, followed by the initials and the first name. The name of the book is usually in italics. The page number is preceded by ‘p’: [p16] if it a single page; or ‘pp’ if there are more: [pp23-30]. If you are only quoting an article from a book, then mention the name of author of the article, the article, the author or editor of the book and then the name of the book. Das, W M D, Perils of the JFPM MOU, in Winnu D, Forest Dwellers Today, .... If the book has more than two authors, mention the name of the first author followed by et al: Singh, V P et al; Experiments with Democracy the little book of documentation 33
  34. 34. In the bibliography, at the end of the book or article, mention all their names. The second time onwards, use either ibid or op cit. Ibid is used when you are quoting from the same source as the one previously quoted. Das W M D, Perils of the JFPM MOU; in Winnu M D, Forest Dwellers Today,...p 16. If you are quoting from the same page—in this case page 16—the next time without any other reference in between, then the footnote should just read ibid. If it is a different page, it could be ibid, p 23. In case you have quoted some other reference in between, then you use op cit., together with the name of the author. The page number should be added if required. Joshi N M, op cit., p16 If the volume in question is a collection of articles edited by someone, then the name of the editor should be mentioned, followed by ‘ed’. If there is more than one editor, then it is mentioned ‘eds’. Singh K P and Fernandez, W (eds); Forest Dwellers Today,... p 16 the little book of documentation 34
  35. 35. If you are quoting, put the original comments and authors brackets in rounded brackets ‘( )’ and your own additions in square brackets ‘[ ]’. Always indicate if the emphasis is your own or whether it was there in the original. The emphasis in the original is normally shown as italics, while added emphasis—the ones you have added to highlight your point—are shown as bold italics This raises the question, what if the original emphasis was in bold italics? Easy, just add a note saying “emphasis author’s”. If it is yours you say “emphasis ours”. the little book of documentation 35
  36. 36. 7 Getting information All those involved in documentation should have access to the latest information. This does not mean that we have to buy all the books. Just be aware of where the information is available, and how soon you can access it. Ultimately it all boils down to that: how soon can you get the relevant data? Very often the information of priority for us is not so important to others. It is only to have ready access to the particular data and information, of interest to us, that we need and use frequently, that we collect and classify ‘cuttings’. This is one of the easiest ways of documentation. In its simplest form, this means taking a pair of scissors and cutting out material of relevance. Yes, all right, you can do it even without a pair of scissors. Use a blade then. First of all, chose areas of interest to you. It is best to keep it to the minimum. Let us assume the areas you require information all the time are: women, law, Dalits, Adivasis, and the political situation. At a glance we can see that most of the news fall under these categories. the little book of documentation 36
  37. 37. In fact, ‘women’ itself is so comprehensive as to merit quite a few specialist resource centres. It is best to be more specific as: Women [general category] within which sub-categories could be: · Law. · Education. · Political situation. · Economic situation. · Social and cultural; Religious. and many more ... You can have a special category for an important event, for instance general elections, or world summits. Professionals opine that even two are too many for an individual. Up to a maximum of five areas of interest seem to be manageable, if you run a professional documentation centre. For individuals, it is best to stick to one topic, and specialize on information in your locality, district, province, country and the globe— preferably, but not necessarily, in that order. Know where you can get other information. Specialize and know the other specialists. How do I...? Keep a pencil and mark the passages and articles that interest you while reading. Do this the little book of documentation 37
  38. 38. the first time you read itself. Very often pious intentions of getting back to important passages at the second reading results in just pious intentions. As soon as you finish reading, cut out these pieces, clearly marking from where you got it. Paste it onto a clean paper. On the paper, write down the source and date on which you got the information. Use the same size of paper for sticking cuttings on, right through. Keep these sheets in a loose-leaf folder, box file, or in a box made for the purpose. Classify them according to the sub-categories that you already decided. At the end of the month, neatly arrange them, and put them away where they can be reached easily. Label them clearly. At the end of the year you might want to bind the material. Bind your special topics separately. You could bind your data either all together in one volume, with divisions for the sub-categories, or different volumes for different topics. This should, in large measure, be determined by the quantity of data you have. The material you get could be from many different sources. Popular news magazines and newspapers apart, specialist journals and newsletters are rich sources of information. Directories of professional bodies are another the little book of documentation 38
  39. 39. good source. You should have access to the latest census data, the world reports, the status of children and women and the important newspaper and magazine addresses. The World Bank, the UNO and UN agencies’ reports have official data from all countries, classified under different heads. Reports of ministries are published annually and contain the ‘official’ data. The more comprehensive data is still from the World Bank, the UN and UN agencies, since the government of India gives them the data they don’t share with Indians. Voluntary organization newsletters have a wealth of information. They are almost always free, and many are irregular. Depend on them for information, but not for punctuality—though things are changing here also. Keep a keen lookout for these occasional publications. The best information is still with the field based organizations that are too busy to write. Go out and meet them. Later, the data that you collect like this can be made into information you can use quickly. the little book of documentation 39
  40. 40. 8 Letter writing Your letter should be well drafted and designed. It is often the first contact a person has with you. Those one hundred words make the first and crucial impression. Official Keep them as short and as brief as possible. Two or three lines is ideal. Not more than a page in any case. If you have to give more information, give it in additional sheets as annexes, with a covering letter highlighting the main point in a sentence or so. The person who reads your letter has a hundred decisions to take, and will appreciate an accurate, brief and clear presentation. The ABCs hold good everywhere. Add a personal note, no matter who you are sending it to. Postscripts are the most read parts of a letter. Never send a letter with a xeroxed signature, or signed ‘for’. If a person has the authority to sign for the director, she certainly has the authority to take such a decision—so why can’t the decider sign it? Moreover, it conveys a subtle meaning that the real authority does not have the time for the the little book of documentation 40
  41. 41. reader—many people throw such letters into the dust bin—or that the person is very dictatorial, highly insecure and cannot delegate. Format From Your address comes here, if you are writing on a plain sheet of paper. Omit this is when using a letter head. To The address of the person you are sending it to. Reference: This is the reference number or filing codes. Dear Sir, Subject: Text of Letter Sincerely, Signature [Name] [Place] [Date] the little book of documentation 41
  42. 42. Example From Change Agents 23, Market Street, Bagalur Village and Post India 110103 To The India Desk Officer India Philanthropy Foundation 221B, Bakers Street, New Delhi 110001 Reference: IPF/prop/05/2001 Dear Sir, Subject: Project for help line for street children Enclosed is a project proposal to set up a help line for street children in the four metros in 2000–2001. The total outlay is Rupees 20 million, inclusive of 12% administrative costs. Kindly contact us for any clarifications. Looking forward to a favorable response. Sincerely, Nitish Joshi Nitish Joshi Bangalore 23 January 1999 the little book of documentation 42
  43. 43. Personal We live in a very depersonalized and depersonalizing world. Letters help us regain that human touch. Always write personal letters by hand. Then the personal bond comes through. By all means send typewritten letters. But even the most awfully copied poem is better appreciated. Totally personalize it. Do you have personal codes? Use them liberally. The format for this varies. As long as the receiver understands who it is for, and who it is from, there are practically no limits. It can include any number of languages, styles and dialects, including slang and drawings. The objective in informal personal letters is to give a person a part of you. How much you want to give depends on the strength of the relationship at present—and how much you want it to be in the future. A variation of the personal letter is the love letter. While some of the best writings are on the adventures of the heart, the language of the heart still eludes our grasp. Love brings out the latent poet, and even the halting speaker suddenly turns eloquent. While these are undoubtedly documents of tremendous value, no one seems to need any coaching for it. the little book of documentation 43
  44. 44. 9 Project proposals Project proposals and other such requests for support are important documents. In them you commit yourself to a certain course of action, based on an analysis of the present. Preparing your document well and attractively does most of the work in getting it sanctioned. Have a cover sheet which gives the name of your organization, address, title and duration of project, objectives of the organization and the project; total project costs, local contribution, local institutional donations and foreign contribution required, and bank account number. It should also indicate the legal status. State your objectives. Then the process by which you propose to fulfill them. It is good practice to have a brief history of your organization, and the audited statement of accounts for the previous three years. These indicate institutional capacity for carrying out the proposed programme. Many government departments and institutional donors have a particular format for proposals. Remember, while private donors do not mind if you budget three chairs, and buy the little book of documentation 44
  45. 45. three benches instead, if you do that in a government programme be prepared for endless rounds of questioning and also stoppage of funds. When the government says three chairs, it means three chairs, not three sofas, not three stools, but three chairs. The proposal should be as short as possible, but as comprehensive as necessary. Though you have only one proposal, the project officer has to look through many, and is also human. Give an abstract that shows the linkages between all the activities—both between the existing and the proposed, and between the different components of the proposal. Even very flexible institutional donors have a format for the budget. Use it. Some insist on a ten percent allocation for staff training, institution building... Even if they don’t it is good to have such an allocation. Most prefer institutional and administrative costs to be below 15 percent. Do not under– or over–estimate either your goals or your expenses. It indicates lack of touch with ground reality. It is a surefire way of getting your proposal rejected. Even if the appraiser does not know your area, she will get many proposals from there and will be able to do a comparative the little book of documentation 45
  46. 46. analysis. If you feel your estimates are on the higher or lower side, it is better to explain why. Send the proposal to one donor only. You should get a reply in a month. If you do not you are free to approach another donor for support. The project funding cycle is usually—though not always—from April to March. Appraisals start by late October, for the coming year. Send your requests by mid–October, so that you have plenty of time for approaching as many donors as possible. If you are approaching multiple donors, inform each of them of all the others you are approaching and the percentage you would like each of them to support. Donor agencies specialize, geographically and sectorially. So your chances are better if you approach the one which supports the issues you take up. Child Relief and You, CRY, for instance supports interventions that take up, naturally, children’s issues. There are cutoffs for donor support. Some have a ceiling—they will not support more than Rupees one million a year—or a floor limit— they will not support a group with less than Rupees one million a year. Take your pick. Don’t let that discourage you. If one donor cannot support, and the initiative is deemed the little book of documentation 46
  47. 47. necessary, then they will either make an exception, or direct you to the right place. Lack of money has never stopped a dedicated group. Proposal proforma A request for support, your project proposal, must be clearly distinguished into two parts. The first is about the organization. The second about the programme for which support is requested. It is good practice to have a section on how your project helps your supporters fulfil their policy objectives. Most donors prefer proposals to be less than ten pages long. Anything more, have them as annexes. Even donors who request longer proposals ask for an ‘executive summary’. Organization data · Name of organization and full address. All addresses should include the pin code. · Contact person and designation. · Telephone, fax, telex, e–mail account. Include the country and area codes. · Bank account number, name and address. Analysis of the situation, problem and focal community In this section describe the situation and developments that influence the proposed work. Answering the following questions could help. · What is the situation in the project area? · What are the changes? · What caused them? · How can they be solved? the little book of documentation 47
  48. 48. · What are the problems foreseen in trying to solve these issues? · What is the position of the community within society? · What are their problems and needs? · How did you define these needs? Objectives, strategy, expected impact, gender perspective · Intervention strategy: What are your organization’s short–term and long–term objectives, and how do you plan to realize them? · Expected impact. What improvements will you make in the lives of the community? · How will you attain social and economic improvements in the position of women who work in your organization and for your programmes? · Explain the connections between objectives, strategy, expected impact and gender perspective in the relationship with the analysis. Management How does your organization function? Are there any relatives on the board or staff? Explain how the decisions are taken. Send information on: · Organization structure. · Staff policy. · Monitoring and evaluation policy and systems. · How you improve skills. · Gender ratio in different posts. · Gender ratio in income. the little book of documentation 48
  49. 49. History · Accomplishments. · Strengths. · Weaknesses. · Problems encountered. · Lessons learnt. · Steps taken to translate these lessons into policy. Cooperation patterns This is a good section to have if only to show your reach. For all of them indicate whether it is at the policy level, implementation level or both. · Who else is working in your area? You could indicate areas of commonalty and divergence. · Which networks are you a part of? · Do you cooperate with the government? What are the conditions? At what level? Financing Give your total budget for the last three years. Break it up into · Local contributors, individual. · Local contributors, institutional. · Government funds. · Own income. · Foreign donors, individual. · Foreign donors, institutional. · Foreign donors, government. Indicate the expected funding for the next two years. Mark clearly those that are not yet confirmed. Future perspective · Expected growth. · Expansion of activities. the little book of documentation 49
  50. 50. · Expansion of geographical reach. · Plans to become self–supporting. · Possible withdrawal strategies and time. This ends the section on the organization. The next deals with the programme. Background information on the project Why is the project needed? · Problems and needs in the project area. · The situation of the focal community. · A map of the project area. Objectives · Long term objectives. · Short term objectives. · How do they fit in with the organizational objectives. How this project helps the supporters to fulfill their policy objectives For this you will need to research your supporters. Find out what their key policy objectives are. Then explain each in detail. Most have just one or two key objectives. History of the project This is if it is a continuing project. In which case · What were your accomplishments in the previous periods? · What were the strong and weak points in implementation? · If you are approaching a new donor for an ongoing project, explain why. the little book of documentation 50
  51. 51. Project preparation This is sometimes called need identification. · How did you identify this need? · Who planned this project? The NGO, government, the affected people themselves... ? Project activities Explain each of the activities. Include how you propose to do them: the strategies. Distinguish between output and impact. Output is the concrete, quantifiable data. Impact is the sustained changes in the community that will take more time to be visible. For each activity have: · Background data. · Expected results. · Finance required. · A time frame. Institutional competence · What is the institutional expertise that you have to implement this programme? · How are you going to strengthen this capacity? Include staff training and such measures. Cooperation patterns Here mention only those that are relevant and have direct impact on the project. Sustainability This is a new catchword. · Cost benefit ratio. [Include both the financial and social aspects]. · Feasibility. If it is a relatively big project, have an independent feasibility study or, if it is small, compare it with similar projects near by. the little book of documentation 51
  52. 52. · Can the project become self–supporting at some time in the future? · How does the project help in making the community sustainable? · Will the project impact negatively on the environment? Annexes · Articles of association or trust deed. · Audited financial statements for three years. · Registration under the FCRA. · Budget. · Map of project area. · Project implementation calendar. · Annual reports for past three years. · Evaluations for the past three years. · Case studies and other publications. · Photographs. the little book of documentation 52
  53. 53. 10 Project report writing A good project report ensures that your next proposal is sanctioned. Keep as close to the truth as possible, though success might lead to flights of fancy. State your objectives. Then the process by which you went about fulfilling them. State the results. Next do an analysis of why you exceeded or did not achieve some of your targets. Explain why. There could be important lessons for you from both. If your actual results are way off the mark—by more than 10% in any case—then you probably are not in tune with ground reality. Base the report on your proposal. If there is an over– or under–achievement in any sphere— programme or budget—explain why. It usually indicates bad planning or lack of foresight. You better have good reasons ready: some could be out of your control, others not quite so. Itemize. Do not under–report your failures or go over board with your success. With the emphasis on ‘peoples participation’ NGOs now tend to under–report their role and present all the work done as if done by the people. Be honest. Project officers have an equally good understanding of the little book of documentation 53
  54. 54. field reality, and will appreciate respect for their intelligence. Government departments and institutional donors have a particular format for reporting. Stick to it by all means, but do not stop at that. Share your joys and sorrows with them, even if as an annex. This could be a case study or two. Most formats for reporting take away the human element of the work. Our task is to put it back in. Don’t worry, they will be interested. Remember the proximity rule. Report format Always refer back to your proposal while writing your report. While certain heads such as organization details remain the same, a few heads will need to be added. Significant developments Progress in · Fulfilling objectives. · Project activities. · Institutional development. · Cooperation. Problems · What are they? · How have you solved them? or · How do you propose to solve them? the little book of documentation 54
  55. 55. 11 Case study All interventions have specific impact. Some of it can be expressed through numbers—humans love good figures—some of it can be illustrated by the changes that were brought about. Underneath it all lies the bedrock: what significant impact, if at all, did the intervention make in the lives of ordinary people. It is this that the case study deals with. Case studies put back the human being as the centre of development. It can even be in such ‘boring’ things as selecting the second line leadership or the new ‘core group’. A case study traces the impact of one intervention, or a combination of them, on one entity. In some cases, the ‘entity’ it covers could be a group of people, such as an entire village or organization. Since the objective of a case study is to put back the human element, it is most often best to deal with one person. Start with the situation in the area before the intervention. Then narrow it down to the person on who the focus will be. Take the events in chronological order. Point out the struggles, and triumphs. Draw attention to the emotions, the the little book of documentation 55
  56. 56. support and hostility, the personal traumas. Remember, we are documenting a human story. Do not hesitate to bring in the human emotions. End with the unfinished tasks, and the next areas that the person or community will address. Do not give the impression that one particular intervention solved all the problems—that normally is not the case. Give credit to the external supporters and the tide of history. Using the worst case scenario for the ‘before’ intervention makes good copy—it makes the achievement all the more significant, with the contrast. Do not fall into the trap. It is not necessary either. A person told us, if we were to read all the project reports and take them at face value, all the problems of poverty have been solved many times over. Once you lose credibility, it is very difficult to regain it. Case studies are for very many different reasons. Some of them are: · To illustrate a point in 20 to 30 words. · A short case study of a person affected in about 100 to 200 words. · A longer case study. · A composite [or fictional] case study. · A quotation from an affected person. Each requires a different approach. the little book of documentation 56
  57. 57. A good case study can be written in 250 words or less. The following case study is to illustrate the point that men and women react differently to revolving leadership. Ego of a CEO Change Agents has a revolving leadership. After women complete their term as the CEO they go back to their previous roles. Men, however, do not relish the idea and often leave the organization. Being personal is an integral part of the case study. Case studies show the progression of change—for good or bad—in the life of a person or community. This one is quoted from the organization ACCORD’s documents. Planting the seeds of growth Through 1986 and a part of 1987, Stan visited every field where the planting operation was in progress. The following year he was not really needed... A few years later we had a highly skilled planting team. Locals—who had earlier said that Paniyas were not capable of learning such a skill—had to eat their words as they came to ask the Paniyas to help them lay contour lines. The following is a longer case study. All case studies need not be as long. the little book of documentation 57
  58. 58. Towards self–sustenance: A fistful of rice Programmes cannot be self sustaining if outside input is required forever. So there have been many attempts to make the programmes sustainable. In this arena of self sustenance, Change Agents does face obstacles. In the villages initially covered, Change Agents took the role of delivery, without contribution from the people. So the people got used to getting without giving. Now it is proving to be difficult to get them to contribute to the programme. One method is to collect a fistful of rice or millet, locally called ragi, per day per family. This is put in tins kept next to the fireplace, so that the women can contribute to the nutrition programme. At the end of the month, all this is collected at the balawadi. At present, grains sufficient to run the nutrition programme for fifteen days are collected in this manner. Though Change Agents is continuing efforts in the direction, it is a Herculean task. Where they started working later, the people’s contribution was ensured right from the start. The progress and contribution in these villages has been much more significant. Change Agents insists on contributions, however small, from the people to nip the dependency syndrome in the bud. Thus, while the conceptual and programmatic progress of Change Agents has been tremendous and constantly evolving, the picture is not all rosy. Some islands of resistance do exist. the little book of documentation 58
  59. 59. The paternal state syndrome One illustration of the breath of intervention is that at the anganawadi. The instance of total reliance and depending on Change Agents has been cited above. The government runs anganawadis, child care centres, in villages. These cater to the children just for a part of the time—from 10.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. A meal is served there for the children during that period. During two months in 1995, for some reason, the government did not provide food grains for the anganawadi. The people were at a loss as to what to do. Some parents asked Change Agents to sponsor the programme. Change Agents, they knew, would not refuse due to its concern for children. Indians are specially prone to the paternal state syndrome. It can perhaps be rationalized, but the detrimental effects on self–reliance and action are a reality. It is one of the challenges of the NGOs to make the people retake control over their lives and not expect others—specially the government—to do even the most basic tasks for them. It is a measure of their surrender to this syndrome that the proposition of Change Agents took them all by surprise. They were asked why they couldn’t make good the temporary shortfall—for the children were theirs! They had not thought of it on those lines at all and were hard pressed to reply. However, Change Agents assured them of support on condition that they also contribute towards one meal. After discussions, they agreed. After the government resumed supply of provisions, Change Agents was able to continue a good three meal the little book of documentation 59
  60. 60. programme for fifty children at the cost of just Rupees 800 per month to itself. The children now are in the balawadi the whole day and get three wholesome meals. For this minute input, Change Agents can find donors even from within the country . This sort of cooperation is what Change Agents’ interventions will be moving towards. A part each by the · The affected people themselves. · The government, and · Change Agents, which will channel external support, whether from within or outside the country. In this situation, when parents—even those who can afford to do so—look for external assistance to feed their children, one can see the feudal dependent psyche that leads people to look outward, specially to the state, for benefactors. On the other hand, one can see the retreat of the state at the macro level. Thus there is a vacuum created, as also a gap between people’s expectation and the capability of the state to fulfil these expectations. It is this vacuum that civil society, in the form of NGOs, seeks to address and fill. This gap will only get larger in the following months and years, as the state—that encouraged the people to focus all expectations on it—retreats even further and is unable to fulfil even minimal expectations. The role of NGOs is going to be that much more difficult, as they also strain to close an ever widening gap while facing a resource crunch themselves. the little book of documentation 60
  61. 61. Change Agents’ action plan of involving the people, the government, and external supporters, is in the light of this scenario. Since the gap is bound to grow larger, enabling the people to close the gap by depending more on themselves and initiating action for change without looking for external actors becomes a necessity. This should be a priority for NGOs who, even at the best of times, cannot adequately fill the vacuum created. When we were documenting Adivasi displacement, we had this unforgettable conversation with an old Adivasi woman. “What would you do if you become sick?” we asked her. She did not pause even for a moment. “First I’ll pray to our god. If that does not work, I’ll try a sacrifice. Then I’ll go for the treatment of our doctor. Then I’ll try country medicine. If all of them fail me, then I’ll go to the government hospital to die.” “But these are bad times. Now parents bury their children. Who will be there to bury us?” Direct quotes have a lasting impact. Notice that the language itself becomes much less formal. The use of short forms “I’ve”, “I’ll”, and “can’t” gives the authentic touch. Don’t over do it though. the little book of documentation 61
  62. 62. 12 Process reports A process report is to documentation what systems analysis is to computers. It needs a higher degree of understanding of complexity, a wider grasp of reality, and a greater skill of simplification. A process report is, by definition, never complete. This is simply because processes themselves seldom are. A case study, often several of them, form the core of a process report. A process report covers a much larger time scale than a case study. The scope of the process report is much wider than a case study. It has to be a stand alone document that can give a comprehensive picture of the local situation to the reader. The different perspectives and changing expectations during the process need to be traced. A process report is more than just stringing together case studies in that micro-macro linkages are also covered. Obviously, one then needs to have a good grasp of the local, regional, national and international situation. This knowledge should be as eclectic as possible covering the socio-political situation, economics, culture, environment at all these different levels. Knowledge of the policy at the conceptual and the little book of documentation 62
  63. 63. implementing levels, [they are different!] policy making and implementing bodies are necessary to give a holistic picture. We hope you noticed that ‘eclectic’ is the sort of word one should not use. A similar word, for instance ‘wide’ or ‘varied’, would be preferable since most readers would understand ‘wide’ or ‘varied’, but usually not ‘eclectic’. Similarly avoid jargon such as ‘micro–macro linkages’. Process reporters should at all times be aware that information is part of work. This means read, watch and listen to anything you can lay your hands on—from the holy scriptures to hard pornography and anything in between. If at all you have moral qualms about it, consider it a part of the job. If you are still weak hearted, then process reporting—or any of the information work—is not your cup of tea. In the following report some of the names have been changed. One woman’s story The impact of the total integrated intervention of Change Agents can be traced from the changes in the life of Vanitha. Vanitha belongs to a village in India. The village was identified by the jatha team for Change Agents’ intervention. At the first meeting, she was a shy person, the little book of documentation 63
  64. 64. sitting in a corner of the room that had about 80 to 90 women. When it was proposed that the meeting start with a prayer song, the village women were a little reluctant to sing due to shyness, since it was the first time. But from the corner, Vanitha started singing—and that too a classical song. This seeming ‘forward behaviour’ at the first meeting showed but a glimpse of her potential, and hid the personal crisis that she was undergoing. At the time, she was a broken women. She had lost her husband. He had developed liver problems due to heavy arrack drinking and had died a slow, agonizing, death. She was left with two daughters to look after. Moreover, she is a Dalit. All these are heavy burdens to bear, more so for a young woman. Village communities seldom have enough space for a young widow with other handicaps in the forefront of the community. Before Change Agents came to the village, the village used to come together to celebrate festivals and other functions such as weddings. That tradition was slowly dying out. The village justice system—though it had only men—was also breaking down. It was at this juncture that Change Agents came to the village, and a union was formed in it. The women were taught to conduct meetings and other social skills. The women of the village were united in this forum. This was the first time that they could come together and share their problems as women. It was such a relief just to talk to each other. From sitting at home, in isolation as it were, it was a big step to share their joys and sorrows. the little book of documentation 64
  65. 65. The sharing was on everyday matters at first, and then went on to more general themes of common good. Children’s education, hygiene, electricity, state of the bore well, drainage, road repairs, group activities and unity were all discussed. Then, after the group moved on to savings and credit management, they also used to decide whom to give loans to and other related matters. Slowly the breadth and depth of their discussions increased. As the group took on more responsibilities, the discussions also changed. With such encouragement, Vanitha began to come out of her shell and bloom. Vanitha, together with the Change Agents team, created space for herself and became the leader of the village women’s group—the Mahila Sangha. Savings and credit management The women used to save between Rupees five to thirty every fortnight. In three years their total savings crossed Rupees 35,000.00. They propose to start a Women’s Rural Development Bank. From January 1995, they have started to take loans also. The loan amount can be up to twice their savings. Loans are disbursed at 24% interest per annum. This compares favorably with the local money lender’s rates of 120%. Most of the loans go for buying seeds and for small household necessities. Since the money is deposited in the bank, the women have also learnt how to operate a bank account, and to sign their names. the little book of documentation 65
  66. 66. Environment The village common lands were not being put to the best possible use. So the women asked the authorities— both the civil and the social—for permission to use the land. On getting permission from them, the women planted over 300 saplings, at the rate of five per family. Medicinal, fruit, timber and green fodder producing varieties were planted. Initially, all the members took care of the trees, but later it was found easier to have one family to take care of the community wood–lot. The union and Change Agents assisted them in this programme. Enthused by the programme, they took up a popularization campaign with the slogan ‘one family one tree, one village one forest’. Now, from their own forest they get green fodder, other food for animals, the birds no longer migrate, and it benefits the poor in many different ways. The empowerment process Gradually, Vanitha started helping in the balawadi and getting involved in other activities. It was not long before she was recognized as one of the most active of the union members. So when the village faced problems regarding electricity, it was but natural that she was part of the group that went to set things right. Though there were electricity poles put up and the lines were drawn, there were no street lights there. Due to the darkness, slush in the rainy season, and the snakes, it was difficult for the children to go to the night school. Repeated representations to the panchayat member from their village brought no response. So the the little book of documentation 66
  67. 67. women decided to go directly to the electricity office and meet the concerned person. Twenty women walked more than five kilometers to the mandal panchayat and met the chairman. Being the first time that they were meeting such a high official, they were naturally hesitant and a bit apprehensive. Opening the conversation with a polite—even diffident—namaste, the traditional Indian greeting with folded hands, the women told him their problems. Some were so overwhelmed, that they were literally trembling during the discussion. He was evasive and non–committal. He said that it was a problem everywhere and that there was no provision in the budget for it. This was not the truth. The fact is that the allocation was diverted for something else. Anyway, since he said that he would do what he could and asked for a week, the women went back. When nothing happened even after a week, the women returned. This time the man was abusive. On coming to know that they were from the mahila sangha, he alleged that the women were being instigated by Change Agents, else how could they get the courage to question him? The women retorted that they did not need to be instigated to get their problems redressed. Giving the officer another eight days, they went to the Block Development Officer, BDO. Since it was the day of the weekly market, he thought that the women had come on a pleasure trip and casually dropped into his office. On hearing their request, he was also abusive. He said that the women primarily came to the fair, and used the excuse of making a complaint to get out the little book of documentation 67
  68. 68. of their home on the particular day. He was gently reminded that he was supposed to be a public servant. When he did not agree to the installation of the lights even then, the women said that they were like his children and he like their father. They wanted a commitment on the lights immediately. They were firm that they would not leave the office otherwise and made it clear to him. He pondered for a while and then asked them to give him a rope to hang himself and commit suicide. The women, in a mature response, replied that it was not their intention. They even made light of the issue saying that if it happened then they would not get their request. They reiterated that they would not leave till the lights were sanctioned. Conceding that he had met an irresistible force, the BDO phoned the panchayat office and gave the order for installation. The street lights were put up post haste. Even now, the fused bulbs are replaced immediately. Ripple ef fect This confidence in dealing with the government was put to good use in other areas also. They requested, and got, mini tank. So also a request for a new building for the anganawadi. Enlarging the scope of the anganawadi, related above, was also in this village. Almost the same process was followed by the women to get a milk cooperative sanctioned. Going to the district manager of the milk cooperative, they were brushed off by him and asked to ‘come tomorrow’. They stayed there overnight and when he came to the office the next morning, he was surprised to see the women the little book of documentation 68
  69. 69. there before him. He asked them how they had managed to get there so soon from their villages. When they replied that they had not gone back but had spent the night there, he was even more shocked. Impressed by their determination, he sanctioned a cooperative, the first general body meeting of which was held on 7 June 1995. Recognition At first the men of the village did not recognize the potential of the group. This changed only due to the activities undertaken and the fair amount of success achieved. The road to the village was in disrepair. Despite the efforts of the men, it could not be made good. It was not motorable. The women paid for the road repair from their savings. Change Agents contributed a part. The men were also cooperative and helped in the work. With recognition coming their way, the union has also gained confidence in itself. They want to construct a new building for the anganawadi, and also petition the district commissioner for a bus to their village. They also participate, and in some cases lead, struggles at the state and district levels. In spite of this, it is not a road of only successes. Though they were in the forefront of the anti–arrack campaign in the state, they are unable to totally stop the consumption of arrack in their village. Towards solidarity With growing confidence, the women felt the need for unity at a broader level. Initially, their method was to the little book of documentation 69
  70. 70. keep it small, so that they could solve the problems in their village. They felt that if they could solve the problems in their village, they could do it anywhere. Once they got the confidence of problem solving in their village, they decided to reach out to the others. To this end, Okuta, the federation of the unions at the taluk level, was formed and also one at the district level. Three women from each of the 104 villages come. Now they are joined by women of other villages also. The objectives are the unity of women, awareness and solidarity. It takes collective decisions regarding trainings to be conducted, invitations to government officials, and policy matters. In fact, it was here that the anti–arrack campaign was decided up on. One of the wishes of the founder of Change Agents was that all the women in the villages where Change Agents works should meet. As their confidence grew, the women also expressed such a desire. So on 5 April 1995, about 6000 women came together for a solidarity camp. The women contributed Rupees 140,000 of their own savings for the programme. The solidarity camp was an emotional experience for all. For the Change Agents team, it was a long cherished dream come true. For the women, they were meeting together for the first time. That day was made into a very special one for them. A village band walked in front of the women, leading them to the venue. This is a very high honour in the village, given only on rare occasions for very important people. From the road, they literally got a red carpet welcome. At the meeting itself, the children showered flowers on the little book of documentation 70
  71. 71. them as part of the welcome song. All this was a heady mix. Tears glittered in the eyes of many women in this emotionally surcharged moment. It was not all glitter only. Five papers were presented by the women and the guests—the minister, the local MLA etc.—were asked to respond. Vanitha read out a paper on alcoholism. The other papers were on Women and Housing and other related issues. The local MLA was in charge of housing. So he replied to the paper on housing, and the Women’s Development Commissioner replied to the paper on Women and Development. Naturally, this was the result of a lot of spade–work. The process was set in motion almost a year and a half before the actual function. The women were trained and given adequate practice to read and explain the papers they were presenting. At the end of it all, it was well worth the effort. One note of sadness was that the founder was not present, though his spirit certainly was. A journey of a thousand miles: the anti–arrack campaign Every journey, no matter how long, starts with a single step. The anti–arrack programme was a combination of awareness creation and banning the sale of arrack in the villages. Initially, the shops in far off places were exempt since the men could not go a long distance for arrack at night. The first thing tackled was the shop in the village. The union wrote letters to the Chief Minister. The dealers got wind of the move and picked up a quarrel with the union. They also tried to get the police on their side against the women. Strong words were used. the little book of documentation 71
  72. 72. The vendors were told that the union would recommend alternate income generation programmes for them. Though they were ostensibly agreeable, they were not too keen in practice. There were two vendors, and both continued their trade in the pretext that the other would not close. Each wanted the other to close first. Finally the women surrounded the shop and forced its closure. This is only a partial victory, since under the counter sales continue, on demand from the men. Vanitha had a personal stake in this. Her husband had died in 1987 due to alcoholism, after an excruciating illness for two years. She wanted to ensure that it did not happen to anyone else. Since her mother looks after the home, her daughters and the farm, Vanitha has some space to be actively involved in the federation and campaigns. Scaling up It became clear as the campaign progressed, that banning arrack should be a policy of the government. So the agitation was intensified for that. The state network of voluntary organizations was roped in. Women conducted demonstrations. The movement was recognized as a potent one and the then Congress[I] government gave an assurance that the sale of arrack would be banned after 15 June 1995—a date conveniently after the elections. This was partly due to electoral compulsions, since the elections were fast approaching. They needed the votes from the women, and the money from the liquor lobby—hence the equivocation and the stalling. But they the little book of documentation 72
  73. 73. were voted out of power, and the new government is not so sympathetic. Twenty thousand women signed a petition to Chief Minister Gowda requesting the ban. When the women were having a demonstration in Bangalore, on 17 March 1995, they went to request him to come. They met him at his house. He did not stop to talk to them, but kept on walking. Vanitha, with quick thinking, ran ahead, blocked his way by standing in front of him, and greeted him with a polite ‘namaste’. With his escape route cut off, he had no option but to listen to their request. By this time the rest of the delegation also reached. After listening to them he excused himself saying that he could not attend their meeting since the budget session of the legislative assembly was on. The delegation however got an assurance that he would send a minister, and not a bureaucrat, to the meeting. This was agreed upon and two ministers, the minister for minor irrigation—an unintended comment on the issue!—and the home minister, attended. Personal growth When the World Bank officials came to see for themselves the manual desiltation of tanks, she sang the ‘prayer song’—a song on the role of the tanks in the life of the people. The officials were so impressed that they took back with them to Washington a recording, transcription and a translation of her song. Even today, she composes and sings songs. From the trembling appellant in front of the panchayat official to the confident, quick thinking, leader accosting the little book of documentation 73
  74. 74. the Chief Minister, is quite a journey. The self–confidence gained on the way is enormous. She is recognized all over the district. She has come on television. All parties woo her for the elections. Though the growth of all the women are not so spectacular, it can be said with confidence that some form of empowerment has taken place for all the women due to the intervention of Change Agents. The report is part narrative and part analytical. Inclusion of some quotes will dramatically change it and bring it to life. Rewritten “Get out from my office”, he said. “How can you say that? You are like our father”, the women doggedly replied. “In any case we are not leaving till we get a firm commitment”. The BDO paused for a while. In desperation he said “Give me a rope to hang myself”. “But that won’t get us our lights”. They got their street lights. See how the people develop personalities that jump out of the page in conversation? Think of your audience. See if they will like it. If they do, you could reconstruct the exchanges. One thing you could notice is the use of the text design itself to give a particular message. the little book of documentation 74
  75. 75. The rather heavy report is made slightly bearable [we hope!] with the use of subheads. The paragraphs in the conversation in the rewritten part are short and crisp. The ones in the analytical report are longer with blocks of text. They add to the formality or otherwise of the text. To wind up, here is an anecdote, without comment. After their historic first heavier than air powered flight, on 17 December 1903, at Kitty Hawk in U.S.A., the Wright brothers sent a telegram home to their sister saying ‘First sustained flight today 59 secs. Hope to be home for Christmas’. Their sister promptly showed it to the editor of their town newspaper. The next day, the headline read ‘Popular Bicycle Merchants to be Home for Christmas’. the little book of documentation 75
  76. 76. 13 Workshop reports Workshop reports need to highlight the content. Keep in mind why you are reporting the workshop. Then the end use of the report and the audience will be clear. Otherwise the report will be a catch–all, and useless. Workshop reports should have the key points made in each presentation. Include the examples. The most important part is to include the key issues raised in the discussions. These discussions are mainly of two types. One, the questions from the floor and the clarifications by the experts. The next are the areas of divergence. Report these in detail. If a consensus was reached, report why. Else highlight the differing view points and mention that no consensus was reached. Speeches need drastic editing for coherence. Edit so that there is a logical flow of ideas. Connecting paragraphs will have to be put in. While the speaker and the listener can make the connections, on paper each idea and the links will need to be spelt out for the reader. This needs discernment. A good grasp of the subject is invaluable. There is a positive side too. A speaker the little book of documentation 76
  77. 77. has to get it right the first time. A writer has a lot more time to polish it up. Reports should be published only if they are useful, but not as monuments to the conference. Even then, publish only papers that are useful. If publication is promised, and the authors are given good guidelines, then it is more likely that quality papers are submitted. Cut out the introductory talk, the list of participants, the schedule, the photograph with everyone smiling like a toothpaste advertisement gone wrong... Before publishing conference proceedings, save yourself a lot of time and trouble by following this simple system. At the end of the conference, if the meals were served on time, all participants would suggest that the proceedings be published. Agree immediately. Next ask them to go back, check with their organization how many copies they would need, and then write back to you how many copies of the report they would like to buy. Insist that it be given in writing so that you ‘know the exact number to be printed for administrative reasons’. Rest assured you will not get even one reply. If there is that rare breed of persevering delegate who writes back, tell the truth: there are too few the little book of documentation 77
  78. 78. requests to justify publication. For the sponsors, a two page summary and a set of resolutions will be sufficient. If all the papers were circulated at the conference, this summary report and a copy of the resolutions are enough for the participants also. For your records, bind these together with the papers presented, the list of participants... That is all that is required. The participants will have their own full sets of documents. If they feel it is of lasting value, they will get it bound. the little book of documentation 78
  79. 79. 14 Making documents attractive Most authors put in a lot of effort on their text. That is good. Once the text is ready give equal attention to the presentation so that the documents are attractive. People should want to pick it up. Think of it this way: There is such a lot of material competing for the readers attention. How can we make them choose ours? Remember way back in school the girl who got better marks because her handwriting was better and her book neater? That still holds good. The document must be neat. Good design is important. Headings and subheads Create a strong title or headline. This is what people scan first. Do not use jargon. Make people want to pick it up from a bookstore shelf. Titles, sub–heads and captions must be catchy. Use the KISS MII principle. Since these are the parts of the document that are done at the end, they are most prone to mistakes. For this reason, the saying is that if there is a mistake it will be in the headline is true. Always double check the headings, the sub–heads and the captions in the final proof. the little book of documentation 79
  80. 80. The text design Layout and design are important contributors to readability. Avoid too many references and asides, it makes your work too pedantic. If you absolutely, desperately, need to have them, tuck them away as footnotes, so that they do not break the flow of the text. Put the footnotes at the bottom of each page.1 Fonts are of two types: serif and sans serif. A serif is the small line at the tip of each letter. This is said to increase readability, which is why most books are printed in serif typeface. Sans serif is mostly used for headings, leaflets and posters. This book is in a serif font. But the headings, subheads and the case studies [one woman’s story, ego of a ceo...] are in a sans serif font. Vary the styles to highlight or emphasize points and also keep reader interest. Use bold, underline and italics. Don’t over use them. Then the reader will be more conscious of the styles and layout than the content of your writing. Using bold in print is like shouting in a conversation. Don’t use more than two fonts on a single page. 1 For reason see end of book. the little book of documentation 80
  81. 81. Use simple, strong design. Effective design in type means: a typeface that is easy to read and a type that is large enough to read easily. Do not change too many type faces or size. The prime concern is to gently lead the reader to your idea, not confuse with a shower of brilliant layouts, fonts and styles. Use of white space Take care of the balance between pictures and text. Too much text is intimidating. Too little margins make the book difficult to open and read. Too much white space is a waste of paper and later, during distribution, of postage. White space should indicate the transition of ideas between sections and be large enough for easy continuous reading between lines. Use white space intelligently for the contrast between print and paper, and for contrast between guideposts and normal text. Use lines that are neither too long nor too short. Fifty two characters, including spaces is the maximum. Short lines are awkward, unless they are short enough to scan. Read through the page proofs to see if there are any chapters that end with just a few lines on a page. Edit the chapter so that it ends on the the little book of documentation 81
  82. 82. previous page itself. Similarly for paragraphs. Paragraphs should not end with just a word on one line. Edit those also. Use of short sentences comes in useful for this. Illustrations and photographs Illustrations and photographs should have a single, clear message. They should give solid information or create emotion. Make sure that they are technically good. Give them a caption. The caption should not state the obvious [‘Two women carrying wood’]. It should be as short as possible. The ‘movement’ of an illustration should be towards the reader or towards the book: From left to right on the left page, and right to left on the right page. Illustrations have to be in the idiom the audience understands. Keep in mind the ‘visual literacy’ of the intended audience. the little book of documentation 82
  83. 83. 15 Computers Should you use computers? If you are systematic, go ahead. If not avoid it like the plague. A computer is a ‘more machine’. If you are good, it will make you better, ‘more’ good. If you are bad, it will make you worse, i.e. ‘more’ bad. If you put garbage in, then garbage comes out. Programme it wrongly, and you will find out why a computer is a wonderful machine that can make billions of mistakes per second. A computer is definitely an asset if you keep revising material, and specially if you are going in for offset printing. Errors can be minimized. With a little effort errors can actually be eliminated altogether. You can even format your entire book with coaching of just a couple of hours if you are already computer literate, or a couple of weeks if you are not. When should we buy a computer? The best time to buy a computer and accessories is September, since the industry gives a lot of incentives for people to buy at that time to avail of full depreciation. It is a good time to buy, though more people seem to buy in February and March. the little book of documentation 83

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