Avoiding the Research “Hit and Run”

“Inaccurate and lacking sources. Put in the ignore bin”

It’s like a research hit and run. Another researcher has left a notation on a record to highlight an error. Awesome! Scanning all of the info on the screen, searching feverishly for citations, references, or sources of any kind, it’s now clear that no further info is given. Contextually, the notation above now reads more like

“The information is wrong but I’m not going to tell you why…”

In the best cases, citations and references have been provided to back up the error notation. However, many times no additional information is given and the researcher is left hanging. In the example I’m thinking of, I’d seen the same “it’s wrong” type of note several times in a particular series of records for a Mayflower descendant line. The first time I thanked [@user] for noting the problem in the comments and thought no more of it. After a few more entries in the same line with the same comment, I realized the notation was worthless because no further [correct] information was given.

Besides being an example of sloppy research, no contribution was made to the research community whatsoever and nothing was resolved from the research perspective. Total hit and run situation. Grumble. Moving on.

Avoiding Research Hit and Runs

Using best practices, here are three simple ingredients to avoid or minimize the research hit and run:

1. Call out the error

“According to [high-quality resource x], Joseph Andrew Fabeetz was born in England, not Pennsylvania.”

2. Describe the problem

“Some researchers have noted Joseph Andrew Fabeetz’s birthplace as Pennsylvania, however, this would have been unlikely because…”

3. Provide alternate information

“See the Fabeetz Family History at [URL] or in [book, article, database]”

“Evidence from Jones and Pratt (2010) seems to suggest that Joseph Andrew Fabeetz’s family first settled in Rhode Island and later moved to Pennsylvania, which may be the source of ambiguity regarding birthplace.”

Bottom Line

Calling out an error is great but finishing the job is better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s