Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taking a wrong path in research and setting it right

GenWeekly welcomes our newest writer, AnnMarie Gilin-Dodson. Her first article, "Lessons Learned: Get it Right the First Time," addresses the problem faced by many researchers at some point, taking information at face value and going down the wrong path. It may not even be misinformation given to us by someone else, but our own assumptions that can lead us astray. I recently erred in taking at face value and assuming to be the direct line ancestor, the one person with our family name who bought property in an area at the right point in time. As the research continued, evidence began to suggest this person was, more than likely, the son and not the father, as I had believed. In going back over my research, If I had taken more time in analyzing each piece of evidence and not rushed to judgment, I would have discovered the one piece of information that ruled him out as the direct line ancestor. Much of what we do is trial and error, but in an effort to help us "get it right the first time," the author suggests developing a formalized plan for various stages of research, and provides a checklist to help us get started. I cannot say the list would have helped me avoid my own error, but it does address the Assess/Analyze stage of research, the very place where we need to take the greatest care and make sure the evidence supports our assumptions. The message is valid and the checklist a good starting point, which you can modify and add to based on your own experience.

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