Do your own research…

“Do your own research…”

No.

I’m sorry but that’s not always the best advice. In fact it can be down right dangerous.

There are many problems with this statement. It sounds like a good idea, but here’s the thing, sometimes good sounding things are only surface deep. This is one of those.

“Do your own research…” is a bit narcissistic in nature. That may sound extreme, but bear with me on this. If I have to do my own research on important things, then the real question is this – why am I not trusting anyone else? Especially those who have devoted a large portion of their life to a subject area?

Maybe the real hang up here is how we are defining what it means to “do your own research.” In using the phrase, what I sense is that it’s not being used according to the long standing definition.

Here’s how Wordnik.com defines research:

  1. Careful study of a given subject, field, or problem, undertaken to discover facts or principles.
  2. An act or period of such study.
  3. Diligent inquiry, examination, or study; laborious or continued search after facts or principles; investigation: as, microscopical research; historical researches.

When I read these definitions, what I come away with is that there is a great deal of time investment, among other things. Doing your own research means observing something going on an asking a question, proposing a hypothesis that can be confirmed or denied, setting up experiments, running them, and analyzing the results under peer review. It is not an independent process.

What I hear when the phrase “Do your own research” is stated, is actually something else – confirmation bias. confirmation bias means finding information written by someone else that merely confirms a person’s preferred outcome. They held a belief at the start and found information that supports one’s beliefs and opinions. That’s not research. That spin. Confirmation bias has nothing to do with the possibility that one’s beliefs would have to be reconsidered based on conflicting data and information.

“I did my own research…” No, you probably didn’t. You probably found someone saying the same thing you already believe. And that’s fine. But can we please stop calling it research. Because it’s not.

“Do your own research…” is also problematic because it means we cannot trust people who have devoted their entires lives to doing actual research on specific topics. When I have to do my own research on a topic I know very little about (hence why I’m looking), why do I think I even know who the reputable sources are on the matter? I have no expertise after all. I have the Dunning-Krueger effect in full force. (you can look that up – do your own research. LOL).

“Do your own research…” doesn’t even make sense. Where do I possibly begin? Especially with a subject I know practically nothing about. Or I could trust someone who has expertise in the subject, been peer reviewed, and knows enough about the subject to be vulnerable enough to say that they might not know the answer. But I have faith in them because they have been studying the subject for many years and have a good understanding of it and others that I trust have said so.

Do your own research if you want, but please don’t think that whatever research you are doing is the equivalent in quality as someone who has devoted their life to a subject matter.

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