28 January 2015
Sources come in endless types, but six basic rules apply to using all of them:
- There is no source we can trust without 'sweating it.'
- No one is infallible. Everyone is expected to be able to provide proof for what they assert.
- When we use sources from fields with less-stringent standards of acceptability, we don't suspend our own standards. If we are using that material for our work, we apply the standards of our field.
- The reliability of sources and information can be "weighed" (figuratively speaking) but it cannot be measured or counted.
- The word proof is just shorthand for "At this point, the weight of the evidence points to a conclusion that ..." (But, of course, anyone who asserts this must then provide all the individual pieces of evidence, analyze each, rebut any contradictory evidence, and explain why the evidence should be considered reasonable proof.)
- In historical research, there is no such thing as a "final answer."
PHOTOCREDIT: Adapted from Image 73496, Pixabay (http://pixabay.com/en/plate-school-blackboard-empty-73496/ : downloaded 5 December 2014), Creative Commons public domain image, used under license.