Charles R. Twardy

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Do your own research

Sabine Hossenfelder’s Do your own research… but do it right is an excellent guide to critical thinking and a helpful antidote to the meme that no one should “do your own research”.

  1. (When not to do you own research.)
  2. Prepare well:
    • Reasonable expections: what can you reasonably learn in hours of online/library work?
    • Which specific questions are you trying to answer?
    • Be honest with yourself: about your biases and about what you don’t understand, or aren’t understanding as you read.
  3. Start with basics: Begin wtih peer-reviewed review articles, reports, lectures, & textbooks. Then look at recent publications. Use Google Scholar and related services to track citations to your source. Check for predatory journals. Beware preprints and conference proceedings, unless you can consult an expert.
  4. No cherry-picking! [ Even though you probably started because someone is wrong on the internet. -crt] This is the #1 mistake of “do your own research”.
  5. Track down sources
    • Never trust 2nd hand sources. Look at them to get started, but don’t end there.
    • If data is available, favor that over the text. Abstracts and conclusions especially tend to overstate.