WWP The Project Newsletter Archive Volume 2, Number 2 Training Materials

Training Materials and Procedures at the WWP

Jennifer Rowley and Carole Mah

The nature of the encoding process has changed dramatically over the last decade. During the early years of the WWP, there was no TEI (Text Encoding Initiative), no SGML-aware editing software, and no staff resources available to devote full-time to developing training materials and procedures. This summer marks the beginning of a new era in the training of student encoders, the culmination of years of evolution. The various hodgepodge training materials compiled over the last six years have been replaced by a whole suite of well-thought-out materials written and compiled over the last year by many staff and encoders.

Encoders are predominantly graduate students, mostly from Brown's Department of English. The training process begins with several introductory reading assignments designed to acquaint the encoder both with the history and philosophy of the WWP and with the basics of text encoding. This includes reading the first four chapters of the TEI Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange (P3), concentrating on Chapter 2 ("A Gentle Introduction to SGML" ).

The centerpiece of the encoder's education is the WWP P3 Training Guide. The goal of that document is to address how the WWP applies the TEI Guidelines in the transcription of pre-Victorian English literature by women. Its structure follows that of P3, listing each chapter and subsection so that encoders can compare it to a copy of P3 opened to the same chapter and subsection. By reading P3 and the WWP P3 Training Guide in tandem, encoders learn to use the TEI tagset in a WWP-specific context.

Before beginning to apply this new knowledge, encoders learn to use software designed for encoding, including Author/Editor and Emacs/PSGML (SGML-aware editors), and BBEdit (a plain-text editor with powerful pattern-matching capabilities).

The encoding process consists of three phases: document analysis, capture, and proofreading/correction input. Subsequently the text goes through further proofreading/correction rounds, and finally review by staff and board members for accuracy. This process takes place in an environment with many avenues of support and reference. Many training and reference materials are available via an internal webpage, including the WWP P3 Training Guide, a proofreading guide, intensive tutorials on selected topics, and pointers to P3 and other external resources. There are also frequent meetings among staff and encoders to discuss encoding problems, and an internal electronic list for encoding discussions and the dissemination of updates on encoding policies. All of the encoding decisions and policies recorded in the WWP P3 Training Guide are also available in database form, where each policy is accompanied by background and historical information and summaries of arguments leading to each decision. There is also an internal mailing list that includes the WWP Research Board, for the solution of problems insoluble within the office. Finally, there are a number of databases for bibliographic information.

This comprehensive approach to the training of encoders not only produces better encoders here at the WWP, but also provides the text-encoding community with an invaluable resource. By sharing our experiences with both new and established text encoding projects, we hope to further the state of encoder training in the text encoding community as a whole.

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