Friday, November 6, 2009

Why write about false starts?

One thing we will be doing more of in Casefile Clues is write about the false starts--those approaches that sounded good (and perhaps were good), but did not work. This is an important part of the research process.

In my other life, I teach math. One of the dificulties students have in some classes with some teachers is that the teacher just works the problem the right way, showing every step correctly. Students need to see the right way, but they also sometimes need to see the incorrect way to see why it was incorrect. There is learning in that too.

Genealogy is a little different because what might have worked on every other family in the same time and same place doesn't work on another family for an unknown reason. Only showing the "right" steps in the finished product is not as instructive as showing a few wrong steps that didn't work out and explaining why they didn't work (if known).

We won't say that a method is good when it isn't.

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