In Praise of Original Sources

This is just a really quick post to say:

When you are researching anything it is incredibly important to go back to the original source to check the facts.

An example from my own plague and Black Death studies:

What you see all of the time: “There was no one left living to bury the dead.”


What is ACTUALLY in most of the sources: “There were hardly enough living to bury the dead.”

These two sentence mean very different things. The former implies the dead remained unburied. While the latter implies the dead were buried (but perhaps not in the way they would have been had the living:dead ratio been as standard outside of times of epidemics).

These slight alterations to the text may not seem that important at the time (whether they were written in 1653, 1879, 1952, or 2011) or even that they are impacting the understanding of the information contained within. But, if they get repeated ad nauseam for the rest of eternity  – because some academics are too busy/lazy/trusting to check the original source – it can drastically alter how we perceive (in this case) the past.

We all know this, fellow researchers and readers of research.

You can feel it in the very core of the as-yet-undiscovered-by-science-organ that regulates our passion for our subjects.*

If you are responsible for, or have ever been tempted to, cite sources unseen, then to you I say this: STOP!

You can be the better research that you have always known exists inside you (to be clear, there is not literally another – better – researcher that exists inside you – it is just you after you make better life choices).**

I believe in you(r academic integrity and research abilities)!

Can I get an ‘amen…-dments will be less necessary if we all agree to check our facts’?

Praising Mantis

*It has been pointed out to me that this organ does in fact exist and its existence has been proven by science: it is the brain.

**If you actually made better life choices, you would probably have a different job.


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