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Created: May 20, 2009
Last modified: July 23, 2010

bridging science
and parascience

For us at the KRI, research has two phases. First, we locate potential sites and research claims to verify a location has sufficient likelihood of manifesting paranormal activity to warrant an investigation. The moment we are satisfied that this is the case, all research stops. We need only enough information to confirm we aren't wasting our resources by moving forward. Once we reach that point, we stop adding to our knowledge until after our medium has gone through and recorded her sensations (usually at the investigation itself). Only then do we continue our research; we want as little information regarding a site as possible before we go in to minimize the likelihood the medium is somehow "reading" the mind of an investigator instead of the alleged presences, or the location itself. Most often, we don't continue research until all the data collected at an investigation has been thoroughly reviewed for the same reason - we don't want any preconceived notions coloring our opinions of whatever evidence we've gathered. The only negative aspect we've yet encountered by doing it this way is the rare occasion we've turned up additional information afterwards we would have liked to question the medium on while she was "reading."

That said, we find in our own process that most of the pre-investigation research consists of interviews and website review, which supplies us with what we consider to be our least reliable information. From there we do the more in-depth library / historical society type research to confirm or deny the information we received initially. Each phase has its own goal, as well as its own "better resource" - its tools.

The most important aspect of research is getting to know your tools. The information you seek is out there and all you're doing is gathering it together. Here are the core tools - not counting obvious government agencies -with these you can find out everything you want to know:

Dover Library
  •   Your local library. Get to know it intimately. Learn how to use the electronic card catalog system and how the library is laid out. Get to know the people behind the information desk and don't be afraid to ask them a million questions. Learn about the Interlibrary Loan System and how to use it. And learn every detail about the reference section and any section your library might have for "Special Documents" and collections of local interest and events. Also, check around your area for other libraries - even the tiniest towns usually have one, and every college campus. Not all of them will let you borrow books, but almost all of them will let you work with whatever materials you want while you are inside. The only downsides to using a library is that you have to go to them to make use of them, and you don't get to keep the books.

  • Wikipedia

  •   Your computer. Particularly the search engines like Google and Yahoo! The biggest drawback to using the internet for research is that there's nobody checking the information that's out there. Anyone can write anything about anything, with no fact-checking and no editing. Using Wikipedia is a little better because it's at least somewhat "peer reviewed," but it is not quite as widely informative on some of the topics of interest to a paranormal researcher, and it is by no means 100% accurate. The next biggest drawback to using the internet is the sheer volume of information out there, and often you have to sift through a great deal of garbage to find what you're looking for. An important positive aspect, however, is that that same huge volume contains every perspective you can conceive, from the most outrageous skeptic to the most outlandish dreamer, the "extremes" have found quite a home on there.

It's important to note that all the major search engine sites have some kind of "advanced search" page and great suggestions available on how best to use them on a "Tips" page. Wikipedia is actually an "open edit" (anyone can make changes, within certain limits) encyclopedia so it's search engine is much more primitive - but it only searches within itself, and similar articles are linked and cross-referenced throughout.

  •   Bookstores, both physical and online. Libraries are great, but they only carry a fraction of what's been written on any given topic. They just don't have sufficient shelf space. Both physical and online bookstores now use the internet extensively to help you find what you're looking for, but online is usually the way to go to find rarer volumes. Unlike a library, you get to keep these books - but like everything else, the cost of books keeps rising. Still, books you find yourself referring back to often are good candidates for purchase.
  • Woodman Institute
  •   Museums and Historical Societies. The people who work at these places are nearly always extremely well-informed, or know someone who might have the answers to whatever questions you have. They are well-connected, and generally eager to help the inquisitive. However, many ask you to "join their society" (pay some donation) before they'll give you complete access, paricularly to their documents collection - a very worthwhile cause, but difficult to justify unless their holdings include truly unique items.
  •   Churches, Synagogues, and other places of worship. Most churches keep birth, death, and marriage records for their members, and the Mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) are reported to have the largest genealogical database in the world. Further, history (and gossip) seems to flow through churches, and clergymen are very well connected to their flock.
  •   Interviews. Talk to authority figures - they hear things no one else does. Such figures include police officers, clergymen, anyone who talks to a great deal of others, particularly about their problems. Very often they are told things with the expectation of discretion, but can often provide leads and suggestions of where to pursue further. Other folk who have a great deal of information you may find helpful are real estate agents, journalists, or even just friendly old neighbors or gossips.

When conducting direct interviews it's important to maintain some level of decorum and presentation. If you try to interview a policeman while you're unshaven, wearing a crumpled t-shirt and torn jeans, and your greasy long hair is hanging wildly all around you, you just aren't going to receive the same responses (if any at all) as you could have. This applies to interviewing anyone - those you are interviewing will be far more open and responsive if you adhere to their preconceived notions of what an interviewer should look like. Be clean and reasonably well groomed. No t-shirts, and no holes in clothes. Even if you aren't good at taking notes and have an audio recorder running, have a notebook open in one hand and something to write with in the other. Above all, treat the person you are interviewing with dignity, and respect what he or she is telling you.

In general, your best information will usually come from printed sources - once the words are printed they don't change without a revision or edit history. Original printed sources are outstanding but often difficult to read. Video sources are next - with the disclaimer that they are often edited from the original without any kind of notice. Digital (online) information is notoriously unreliable but is very easy to find. Last, personal interviews are hard to come by, often of questionable veracity, need to be recorded somehow (through thorough note-taking or recorded with audio equipment), but are the true original source material (when interviewing first-hand observations). When dealing with first-hand witnesses it's extremely important to question thoroughly, including asking indirect questions that will help you determine the individual's perspective, and any possible biases. It is very hard to establish a person's levels of credulity and responsibility based solely on a few hours conversation, but that's what you need to do if you expect others to accept him or her as a reliable witness.