Lemme tell ya a few things about research. First, you shouldn’t listen to anything I have to say, because I’m a blogger and you have no means of verifying any of my stated credentials. The only thing I can guarantee to you is that “my opinion” may or may not accurately state my actual opinion on any topic.
I may or may not be who I claim to be. I may in fact be an AI, a person who looks just like me and has my same name, or an unusually bright magpie that likes keyboards.
Now that we have that cleared away:
I have a bachelor’s degree in history. I “research” things all the time, because it’s how I like to spend my time. I’m motivated by curiosity. What I’m doing falls under different categories. They have official terminology.
“Gathering string”: Reading and skimming a bunch of stuff at random, not knowing where it might lead, and possibly finding an interesting pattern. This is a lot like looking through your fridge and cobbling together a dinner out of leftovers, or shopping at a thrift store. What am I going to find? Dunno, but let’s keep looking! Gathering string doesn’t work as well if you have a specific outcome in mind.
“Looking something up”: Checking information, like whether there is a location of a particular business nearby, or what restaurant options there are in a city we’re planning to visit. I might also look up the date that something happened, which historical figure invented something, or other verifiable data.
“Reading”: Reading things that other people wrote.
“Studying”: Trying to learn about something. For instance, recently I did a speech on Ignatz Semmelweis for my public speaking club. I wouldn’t claim to have done “research” because I don’t speak German and I lack expertise in medicine or public health. What I did do was to read half a dozen articles about Semmelweis and look for images from his time period. Most people would probably consider the work I did on this report to be “research,” but I would refer to it as “reading up on” something or “putting it together.”
“Reporting”: Investigative journalism, such as finding out that someone lied about their credentials or accepted funding unethically. Reporting is based on verifiable information that is not readily available, possibly because someone is motivated to hide that information.
“Original research”: Most of what I do as an historian is NOT original research. I know what it is, I know how to do it, and yet I generally have not done, nor claimed to do, original research.
What would be an example of original research?
Let’s say that I am extremely interested in the history of conspiracy theories. I am putting together a biography of Sir Edmund J. Whackaloon, noted conspiracy theorist. His chief claim to fame is the factual statement that “the Moon is made of green cheese.” (A factual statement says that something is a fact, even if that statement is demonstrably false. It has to be something that can be proved or disproved).
While researching Sir Whackaloon, I note that a collection of his personal letters and diaries was donated to the Noted Archive as part of the Eminent Library. It’s been catalogued, but as far as I can document, nobody has actually read anything in this collection. *OOOOOOOOH*
I ask for permission and go in to look over the special collection. While reading through it, I discover that Sir Whackaloon has kept a secret diary discussing his theories on performance art and mass hysteria. Over a period of eleven years, he had been pulling an elaborate prank, pretending to believe that the Moon is made of green cheese, just to see whether he could get anyone to believe him. Astounding!
What I’ve done is to consult primary source documents, discover new information, formulate my own version of events based on this evidence, and make it public. Once my paper is edited, published, and peer-reviewed, it’s up for debate. Naturally, other Whackaloon scholars are going to dispute my formulation and try to refute it, and that’s all part of the game.
Sir Whackaloon’s letters and journals are the primary source.
My academic paper referring to this collection of letters and journals, that’s a secondary source. Someone might rely on my research because the materials I referenced have not been published and are not publicly available.
A magazine article discussing the controversy over my research and that of other Whackaloon scholars, that’s, well, maybe you could call that a tertiary source.
If someone then blogs about that article, and then several people comment about it, whatever the name is for that, it’s a separate category. One could do original scholarly research on blog comments and trolling, if one wore a respirator, gloves, and protective clothing.
Primary sources generally are not available to the public. The vast majority of people do not conduct original research, unless we count whatever they’re growing on the leftovers they deposit in the office fridge. This is part of where the confusion about “research” comes in. Reading stuff off the internet is probably only going to count as research if you are *researching* the internet. Sociology, right?
I have a few topics that I follow, such as robotics, medical innovations, and autonomous vehicles. I don’t research those things. I read articles about them. I have my own opinions and my own guesses about trends in those areas, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert and I know that my reading isn’t the same thing as research.
I also have an investigation underway, a hypothesis about my personal health. I have some sleep issues, and I’m playing around with my behavior and my home environment to see if I can get some improvement. Even if I succeed, I can’t really call that “research” because it only applies to me. Whatever I come up with, it might be a starting point for someone else’s research, and that would have to involve at least a few hundred people to really count. It just isn’t a good idea for anyone to extrapolate and base their decisions on the personal opinion and anecdotal evidence of one single person.
Especially without really knowing anything about who - or what - that person is. Researcher, crook, fabulist, actor, novelist, artificial intelligence, alien invader, bright magpie, or even a web-savvy Sasquatch.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies