Conclusion or Confusion?

What, exactly, is a valid conclusion for students of history? Are hypotheses legitimate? Do our theories have to meet the scientific standard? Is it enough for a conclusion to be "more likely than not" (aka, a preponderance of the evidence) or believable beyond a shadow of a doubt, to borrow standards used by courts of law? ...

What Does a Citation Prove?

15 March 2015
When we extract a “fact” from a source and we cite that source in our research notes, we feel so virtuous, don’t we? Our inner self reaches out and pats us on the back. “Atta girl! Way to go! Keep up this good stuff!” Truth it, citing sources doesn’t mean ...

Reasonably Exhaustive Research: Quantity or Quality?

12 March 2015
To reach a sound conclusion about any historical event of person, our first criteria is reasonably exhaustive research. However, this does not mean that quantity assures accuracy. Quantity and quality are entirely different critters and quantity can never trump quality. For the history researcher who has no living firsthand witnesses to interview ...

Facts vs. Speculation vs. Interpretation

26 December 2014
Jack Webb, the famed Dragnet detective, consistently called for “Just the facts, Ma’am, just the facts.” That stance, a wise one for detectives, has its counterpart among historical researchers who recognize the difference between documented “facts,” speculation, and interpretation.

A Basic Vocabulary for Historical Research

24 September 2014
Every field has its distinctive vocabulary. The word "document," for example, evokes a quite-different expectation in the mind of one who does historical research vis à vis, say, a software architect. The following basic vocabulary is ...

Proof Argument vs. Proof Summary

19 July 2014
"Proof" is a loaded word. Different fields define it in radically different ways. Some even argue that proof cannot exist in historical research because none of us can say with certainty what happened in the past. All we can do ...

Using Evidence—A Four-Step Process

17 June 2014
As researchers, we move from inquiry to conclusion in a four-step process. Below, we give you three of those steps. What do you think is missing? ...