View Full Version : How do you deal with conflicting research info?

Claudia Traveller
08-16-2015, 02:55 PM
This seems to be a problem that crops up time and again with research via the internet.

I'm currently researching insect behaviour for a mini-series of short stories on my blog (four already written and posted).
Some of the websites on a given insect throw up similar facts which leads me to conclude the info is accurate. However, others are pretty contradictory which means I end up having to leave out potentially interesting story lines.

It's frustrating... do you have any better ideas, tips or solutions on how to deal with this problem?

p.s. hope I've posted this in the correct place

08-16-2015, 03:02 PM
I turn to Google Scholar and textbooks when the rest of the internet offers dodginess and contradiction.

What's the question about insect behaviour? There are a few biologists here.

08-16-2015, 03:07 PM
The best recommendation I can give is to go with the general consensus among entomologists. If the data is evenly split, then work your way down through your sources, prioritizing academic research over some random site offering "fun facts" about insects, unless those facts are cited through reputable studies. Depending on what you are researching, you can take creative liberties with science and nature. Just be sure you have a plausible explanation for it (insect behavior can be impacted by environmental factors).

Claudia Traveller
08-16-2015, 03:09 PM
Thanks, Helix - I'll try Google scholar.
I'm currently researching the behaviour of Hummingbird Hawkmoths (in Europe): no specific questions, but I'm finding conflicting info, particularly on reproduction.
I should add that these stories are a blend of fact and fiction and are light-hearted shorts, but I do want the facts that I weave into the stories to be accurate.

Claudia Traveller
08-16-2015, 03:13 PM
It's finding the reputable sources that I've been having trouble with, Thelassa.
I'll give Google Scholar a go, as recommended by Helix.

08-16-2015, 03:24 PM
There should be a fair bit of info about sphingids, but it might be in older works. If Scholar doesn't come up with the goods, there are plenty of field guides to moths in Europe, some of which should have info about natural history. There are also hobbyists who breed and rear Lepidoptera. I'd imagine hawkmoths would be v. popular with that group.

Good luck!

Claudia Traveller
08-16-2015, 04:22 PM
I just had a quick dip into Google Scholar and I think I'll find enough dependable material for my purposes. Thank you very much for pointing me in this direction, Helix!

By the way, I've posted a story about the Huntsman Spider on my blog if you're interested... and the bull ant I photographed in Jervis Bay is on my list. :)

08-16-2015, 10:01 PM
Validating sources is something every college student should learn and probably high school students should be taught this as well. You look at the source of anything to gauge whether it is accurate or not, based on the reputation and authority of the source. Government statistics are, in general, more reliable than private sources. Scholarly research from reputable institutions is more reliable than research done by product marketing companies. And anything on the internet quoting another site on the internet is, in general, suspect until you reach the original source. If there is no attribution, the "fact" is automatically suspect.

And everything on Facebook, Twitter or other social media has slightly lower reputability than the "news" publications in your local checkout aisle. At least they quote "UFO Experts" in the article.

By the way, something the media could learn to do: Verify from two independent sources. Would have saved Rolling Stone from an embarrassing collegiate rape accusation that turned out to be unreliable.