On the popular Lifehacker blog, Alan Henry has written a helpful post called “How to Conduct Scientific Research On the Internet (Without Getting Duped).” Until someone writes something similar for biblical and/or theological studies, I am going to point people to this blog post and tell them to make the necessary modifications for their disciplines. What does not need altering, except for a word here or there, is the first section: Recognize Your Two Biggest Research Enemies.
- Confirmation Bias – “your own natural tendency to find, believe, and source information that agrees with (or confirms) your already-held opinions about a topic. It’s a problem even for highly educated scientists and experts in their field, and it’s something you’ll need to be ready to battle when you’re looking into a topic that’s new to you. You may be presented with information that’ll challenge your preconceived notions and beliefs. That’s okay—that really just means you need to keep an open mind and seek to understand and find evidence to all sides of an argument (especially the ones you disagree with.)”
- Questionable Sources – every college, university, and seminary professor has seen this one! “…unsourced, poorly-cited articles that draw conclusions without backing them up. Even the best do this sometimes, like citing a study that doesn’t support their conclusions or reporting a study’s conclusions blindly. Keep an eye out though, even poorly-cited work can lead you to valuable reading, but unsourced conjecture should be treated as opinion” (emphasis added).