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Research Methodologies

How do we decide things? How do we, for instance, decide what the name of an ethnic group is, if it is in dispute? Actually we do have in Western society methods of deciding these things other than arguing about them in emails or starting fist fights about them in pubs. Here's an overview. If you feel you have anything to contribute on the topic, here's now to get your view heard:

1. Perform research. This means doing more than asking your grannie, by the way!

2. Publish your results in reputable journals.

3. Debate with other informed individuals at scholarly forums.

You also need to be aware that different disciplines use different methodologies. Methodologies suitable for social history are not going to work for genealogical research. You need to figure out what it is you want to do. Me, I want to do genealogy, so arguing about the names of ethnic groups, for instance, isn't very interesting to me. I don't do it. Whatever it is you are interested in, you need to learn the right methodologies.

Here's a few links and books.

Research link from the American gov. You gotta wonder if the elected officials have ever found it ! (Bad humor, yeh, I know).

Genealogical research link. Suitable methods of extending the family tree, but not for proving Your Grammie's Theory on the correct name of her ethnic group. That's social history, not genealogy.

Professional Genealogy, edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills (Genealogical Publishing Company, 2001) discusses professional research skills and evidence analysis. You absolutely must be familiar with Evidence! Citation and Analysis for the Family Historian by Elizabeth Shown Mills if you want to be taken seriously as a genealogist. It's a thin volume and not too taxing the eyes and short attention spans. I'm glad about this too.

Most of us who read these pages are amateur genealogists, not social historians. So we should read what social historians say and, unless we are willing to do the research to prove otherwise, we should stay focused on our family history as we don't have the background to do research in social history or even to expound on it outside the family reunion or the local pub.

This includes me, so I will stick by the name as established by the Scotch-Irish Society. Please do not send me copies of articles or refer me to standard reference books (that I have in my library). If you really think your opinion or that of an article you found is worth reading, then send it to the Scotch-Irish Society. When it changes its views, I will change mine.

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© 2008 Linda Merle. Do not duplicate without the written consent of the author.