In Focus on the Details I mentioned putting a document in the context of the entire record set to which it belongs. I wanted to expand on that.
Let’s say you are looking at the 1850 census and you see your family of interest. You extract the information you need and you create your source citation. Do you take the time to learn more about the 1850 census itself?
The United States Census Bureau is a good place to start. They have a large History section on their webpage. If you drill down a bit you will see a page for Census Instructions and then you can pull up the Instructions for 1850.
A must have book for your reference library is:
Hinckley, Kathleen W. Your Guide to the Federal Census. Cincinnati: Betterway Books, 2002.
I also like:
Fulton, Lindsey. "The Portable Genealogist: Using the Federal Census: 1790-1840." Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.
Fulton, Lindsey. "The Portable Genealogist: Using the Federal Census: 1850-1940." Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2015.
Understanding the background information for the entire record group will help you interpret the data you find on a document within that set correctly.