The Mystique of Research

One thing that many people may not understand about research is that those trained in it are basically learning how to find stuff out.  It doesn’t matter what the subject is, research is a matter of learning what’s available to help you understand that particular subject.  Typically it involves becoming familiar with the classic “standard books” on the topic then branching out.  Even the internet, however, has its limitations when it comes to trying to find out what’s available.  My curiosity extends far beyond the religion I often blog about.  I write about religion because I’ve studied it all my adult life.  When I discover a new area of interest, or rediscover it, I often wonder how to get the salient books on the topic.

Amazon isn’t a bad place to start, but they don’t have everything.  I’ve run searches on its powerful algorithms that come up with no results.  Bookfinder.com is great for locating out of print material, but it also depends on you knowing what to search for.  WorldCat and Google Books also help.  The one thing you really need, however, is time.  Research requires a lot of time.  You find a book on the subject and read.  Then you look up the sources the author used.  Search the names of other authors to find out what they’ve written.  Watch publishers’ catalogues for the new books they’re producing.  Read journals to see who’s writing on what.  It’s like a never-ending treasure hunt.  It’s beguiling and addictive.  But it’s limited to few full-time—those who are paid to find things out.  The rest of us make what time we can.

Prior to the internet we had, it seems, a lot more certainty.  Much of that certainty was false, but it was nevertheless firmly believed.  Many people despise researchers because they challenge what we’ve always believed about the world.  As if the truth were known x number of years ago and hasn’t changed at all since then.  We want things to stay the same—we want our wallets in the same place we’ve always put them so we can find them when we need them.  Then your told there’s new, virtual currency but you have to mine it.  I know many people who don’t even own computers.  Research opens new worlds, but not all people are natural explorers.  Some prefer to stay close to home and near to the certainties they learned growing up.  Others are restless and have to learn more.  And perhaps go places where we don’t even need our wallets.

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