Who are you and why should I listen to what you say about research methods?

I formerly worked as an IT manager for a research university library. While not a librarian, I have been fortunate enough to work with and support some very knowledgeable information specialists. As such I have grown appreciative of the utility of research tools and systems available to students and faculty, and the impact these resources can have in cases where the “University of Google” just doesn’t cut it.

Having finished graduate school, I now work as an engineer. Graduating changes your access to information, and I am working to understand the challenges this change presents. Recent graduates find they no longer have the seemingly unlimited access that was previously available. Fortunately, there are ways to overcome some of these roadblocks, and part of this blog is about sharing experiences while I continue to build and hone a post-academic information literacy skill set for myself.

I thought this site was about scholarly research. Why the obsession with skepticism?

One of my main interests is scientific skepticism. Scholarly research is about information literacy and evaluating research sources. This is an inherently skeptical process. If you’re doubtful about this claim, then I may need to further explain what I mean by “skepticism.”

What do you mean by skepticism?

I’m talking about scientific skepticism. That said, skepticism is a process, not a position. As Tim Farley has put it:

Skepticism is the intersection of science education and consumer protection. We help people learn from science to avoid spending their money on products and services that do not work.”

Skepticism Venn Diagram

For more information about what skepticism is (and isn’t), Sharon Hill (Doubtful News) has compiled a brilliant Media Guide to Skepticism.

I’m going to use reliable research methods to prove your skepticism wrong.

Good. As I’ve stated, skepticism is a process, not a position. My goal is to become and help others become a better consumer of information. If reliable research methods are used to gain a deeper understanding of our world, even if it overturns old ideas, then all the better!

That said, I caution against approaching research in search of a specific conclusion. It’s sometimes tempting to try and prove a specific claim true, rather than simply trying to understand what might have caused the circumstances which resulted in said claim.

Okay, Mr. Skepti-pants, what do you say about THIS evidence?… [insert evidence]

That’s not the purpose of this blog. Again, skepticism is a process, not a position. I’m not here to try and convince you that any specific claim is false. If I want to persuade you of anything, it’s that more reliable research and evaluation methods produce more reliable research.

Where did the name “Scholastical” come from?

The word “scholastical” is an archaic form of “scholastic,” which means “of or relating to schools or scholars.”

I chose the word as the name for this blog after reading a paper by Sharon Hill entitled “Being Scientifical: Popularity, Purpose and Promotion of Amateur Research and Investigation Groups in the U.S.” (2010). Hill described the efforts of many amateur research groups who “used science-like language” but failed to measure up against “established methods and ethos of […] scientific processes of investigation.” Hill described this as being “scientifical” rather than scientific.

As a recent graduate, I noticed my access to research information had changed with the retiring of my university-provided login ID. No longer able to access research papers and journal articles with the same ease, the process involves work to avail oneself a measure of information access approaching that of a current university scholar. The title of this blog is my attempt to approach this process in a positive light, while giving a nod to it being a work in progress.


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