Daniel Hubbard at Personal Past Meditations - A Genealogical Blog wrote beautifully about documenting not only sources, but the logic of one's conclusions, in his posting "Begging the Citation". He speaks to my chief frustration with genealogy software - the ease with which it allows me to collect data, to link individuals without any logic or rationale at all.
I have a name. I find a record with that name. I attach it to the name and presto! - a source. And I'm off to the next one. It's brainless, it's addictive. It's like a video game - or crack. Depending on the program I may not have typed any words at all. Making sense of my choices, drawing conclusions and preserving those conclusions requires writing - an anathema in the world of instant genealogy.
I have multiple George Perekstas in my database. I can prove at least two appeared in early 20th c. US census records. And I can prove multiple immigration records for what appear to be multiple Georges. But did I write down why I linked a specific record to a specific George? No. I'm as lazy about it as anyone, and mystified by my own conclusions when I revisit research after a couple years.
My fault. I know better. Before I used software my notebooks included research logs and notes (and arrows, doodles and coffee spills) that allow me to follow my train of thought. I have been lax recording notes in the software programs (yes, I know it's possible), far too quick to attach possible records to individuals without recording the rationale behind the decision, too willing to enter tentative or potential relationships for research purposes.
But the worst part of it - the part that has me swearing off software for research and reverting to pen, paper and Excel files - is trying to repair the mistakes. It's a snake pit trying to undo links, repair relationships. I've spent an absurd amount of time cleaning up after myself.
So, time out. I'm stepping away from the software. I've pared the tree down to a pedigree, lopping off all the "possible" branches. I'm adding research notes (dated) and short biographies when warranted. No quill or ink involved, but I'm writing. At some point I will start researching again and tackle my surname databases. Maybe I can produce something useful with them. If I do, it won't involve collecting names or sources, but analyzing and writing about them.
Postscript: I don't mean this to be a complete rant about software. The developers have not forced me to be lazy. I do appreciate the design and reporting elements of the programs. I love the graphic elements and being able to attach digital images. I will return - once I know how to behave.