Research comes in two forms. What is consumed by the public and what is consumed by the private sector – the experts and niche interests.
Now, to be clear, note that I am not discussing sources. I’m talking about methods of research and how that research is consumed.
When we read information, it comes from somewhere, right? Someone did a thing and someone, maybe even the original person, wrote about doing it and what those actions and results mean. Someone else will take those results and simplify them for the public consumption. The public, in general, doesn’t care about the details. Not the nitty, gritty details but they do want the facts. People’s attentions are short and their time is precious. If they can’t consume the information in less than ten minutes, they don’t want it.
This extends to research you do when looking into a new topic. If you want to study something new, starting with the public sources is a fine idea – gives you an idea of what others around you may know and what the experts expect you to know -what is the basics of their knowledge and what might be considered true.
When I begin research for a story, I tackle the topic two fold. I consume media on the topic while simultaneously digging into JSTOR and other academic resources for niche details. By consuming media, I’m not just reading what National Geographic or the New York Times has written about a topic but I’ll also watch popular and well-received shows and read similar books.
Because that’s how information works. Media takes facts and turns them into a story, twisting what’s real into alternative perspectives, what-ifs, and maybes. That’s OK. That’s how writing works.
It’s not, however, how true research works. Research should strive to be unbias. It’s a near impossibility, of course, because we’re people and by our very nature incredibly bias creatures but it should be something we strive for.
This comes into play when researching for our pagan and witchcraft practices. What sort of audience was that information gathered and written for? The tone and point of the article matters. An article written on Heathenism for neo-Nazi sympathizers is going to be very different if intended for liberal modern Heathens who aren’t interested in revitalization or reconstruction. Remembering the intended audience can help determine what purpose the writer is writing the information for and if any information has been ignored or left out to further their point- essentially, what kind of bias they already have.
What kind of research you do, and prefer to do, is entirely up to you. There’s a lot of ways to do research but remember that there are absolute facts – and those facts are interpreted by writers with their own bias writing for specific audiences and niche interests. Just remember this when reading information you intend to use.