Call for Government Records Case Studies

­The Society of American Archivists is publishing a series of case studies designed to facilitate an understanding of issues related to the management of government archives and records. They will be published electronically and distributed through the SAA website under a Creative Commons license, with copyright retained by the authors. Suggested use for these case studies includes as teaching tools in graduate archival education programs and in continuing education workshops, as well as generally by archivists to stimulate dialogue and thought.

The Government Records Section invites individuals to submit case studies drawn from real life. The goal is to develop a series of case studies that address challenges faced by archives responsible for government records, including but not limited to: advocacy, (re)appraisal, custody issues, starting a records program, digitization projects, born-digital records, preservation, access, accountability and transparency.

Furthermore, the goal is to develop a set of case studies from a broad range of repositories, representing all levels of government: local, state, provincial, territorial, tribal, federal, and national. This may include official government repositories, as well as non-government repositories that hold government records.

Case writers may present examples that deal with executive agency records, legislative papers, or judicial records, and may also discuss the challenges related to distinguishing between public records and the personal papers of public officials, intergovernmental relations, and legislative or policy considerations.

Case studies are potentially helpful tools to deal with the wide range of changes experienced by both seasoned veterans and new professionals. 

Elements of a Case Study

  • Introduction and Institutional Context: Identify the key issue or issues presented, the reason for the case, and key challenges involved. Set the stage by providing institutional context such as the environment and/or general milieu of the organization. As appropriate, refer to previous publications or resources that may shed light on this topic.
  • Narrative: Present the story of the case. Describe what happened and how the events created a problem or dilemma. This should be written in the third person and in the past tense, generally using full names of the individuals involved. If the case needs to be anonymized, this should be stated explicitly in the introduction. Direct quotations may be used to enhance the flow of the narrative and to develop different perspectives.  There are many ways to write the body of a case study. In one example, the narrative leads to a decision point and ends with a series of questions, potentially used for discussion, that crystallize those points of decision. In another, the story may be presented completely—from start to finish—with the aftermath of the events forming the conclusion. In this type of case, the analysis involves an examination of the various event elements.
  • Conclusions: Tell how the case ended. Explain what happened. Was there resolution or are there continuing issues?  Are there future plans? Did policy at your organization change? How did the organization and/or major players in the case interact? Why is this case important?  What change or impact was there?
  • Discussion: Raise a set of questions useful for group discussion or self-reflection. Another option is to analyze the case in narrative fashion. The nature of the issues and how they are presented dictate the best format for the discussion section.   
  • Keywords: A list of optional keywords to describe the themes of a study is offered in the submission form. These will, in part, provide ease in searching among multiple published Government Records Case Studies.

Preparing and Submitting Your Case Study

Suggested case study length is 2,500 to 5,000 words. Please use the SUBMISSION FORM as a guideline. Illustrations, such as tables, charts, and digital images, are welcome and should be embedded in the Word document. Include all of the required information—such as institutional identity, authorship, and case summary—in the order that it is requested.

Authors are responsible for understanding and following the principles that govern the “fair use” of quotations and illustrations and for obtaining written permission to publish, where necessary. Accuracy in citations is also the author’s responsibility.

Submit your completed case study as a Word document to GovtRecs-CaseStudies@archivists.org.

Review Process

All submissions will be reviewed by two members of the Government Records Section and evaluated according to a RUBRIC. The reviewers will return the case study and completed rubric within three weeks of receipt to the Chair of the GRS, who will then review the feedback and make a publication recommendation to SAA’s Publications Editor. Within five weeks after submission, the case study author will be notified of the publication decision.

A submission will not be considered if is being reviewed by another publishing outlet at the same time, nor if it has been published previously in a similar form.

Publication Process  

Once accepted, case studies will be submitted to the SAA Publications Editor and Director of Publishing for light copyediting and, in some instances, may also request minor revisions by the author. After the author signs off on a final version, SAA will format the case study and post it to the website as a PDF. 

Copyright of the case study will remain with the author, and SAA will acknowledge this in the copyright line that appears with the case study. Authors will consent, grant, and assign to SAA the non-exclusive right to publish and/or distribute all or any part of the case study throughout the world in electronic or any other medium. In return, SAA agrees to publish the work under a Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives license.

Please direct requests for additional information to PublicationsEditor@archivists.org.