The Scientific Method
There are a few different categories of paranormal investigators. You have skeptics, mediums, spiritual folk, people just doing it for fun, some just doing it, some who take it quite seriously and all of those in-between. I always say that is what I love about the field is that there are people from different backgrounds with different beliefs and we all have something that we can contribute. Quite often one of the questions we tend to ask a fellow investigator is 'What approach do you take investigating the paranormal?'. My response used to be 'I take a scientific approach'. It is a common answer. We use expensive equipment that records data and takes measurement so it is not surprising to use this term. One day when I answered this question for the 100th time, I was actually called out on it by an individual so much smarter than I am. When I said I take a scientific approach I was asked exactly how my approach was scientific. Well I use equipment that measures our surroundings was my response. In a way, I almost felt like I didn't know how to answer the question. I feel like we as investigators automatically connect equipment as being scientific. He wasn't being smart, he took what he did quite seriously and was the kind of person that doesn't really advertise what he does, he is just out there looking for answers in a very methodical way. I think one of the things that irritated him was the number of 'scientific investigators' out there that really aren't that scientific at all. This included myself. At the time I was running around aimlessly with equipment not know what or why I was doing it. That too is completely OK. Not everyone wants to be a super serious investigator and that is fine too. What it was important for me to learn and understand was that calling myself a scientific investigator wasn't completely accurate.
It is not the equipment that makes your approach scientific, it is why and how you investigate by applying the scientific method.
How is the key point here. We can have all of the expensive equipment, but if we aren't using it in a productive way, what is it we are doing? For myself it was a couple of years ago now that I realised I hadn't been using my time productively. I think a lot of people agree that it takes you some time to figure things out. After investigating for a few years, you kind of find your feet a little bit. When you start out investigating, you are literally copying things you see on TV or copying things you see fellow investigators do because at the beginning it is all you know. As you do it more and more, your confidence grows and you gain more experience, you soon work out what you want to do and more importantly how you want to do it. It was around this time that I myself was becoming bored with paranormal investigating. I was bored of doing the same old EVP sessions and asking the same old questions. At the time I took the approach of researching the history of people that might be at a location and every investigation my sessions consisted of the questions 'What is your name and how did you die?'. One day I kind of had enough and thought that there had to be more. I saw people conducting 'experiments' but there seemed to be no rhyme or reason behind it. They did things just because that is how people do it. I think we all find ourselves in this crossroads at a certain point. You can either continue just plodding along in the dark, or you can really challenge yourself and the way you think about things. After a certain amount of time and experience, you start to see things a bit differently. It is at this point, that it is perfect to start applying the true scientific method to your investigations.
The Scientific Method
The scientific method is not putting a locked off camera in a room focused on a K2 meter to see if it goes off when you are not in the room. It is so much more than that. What does the K2 represent. If it does go off what does that mean? If it doesn't go off, what does that mean. What question are you trying to answer by doing this in the first place? Do you have a specific belief or reason that you doing this or are you just doing it because it what you think you are supposed to do? Experimenting during an investigation is quite intriguing but it also has a purpose. This is where the scientific method comes in. There are usually 6-8 points which are followed. I went with the 8 point process because I believe that the 1st point is what gets us to the scientific method in the first place.
I have spoken many times about the importance of observation. Sitting back and observing, sitting, watching, listening and using your senses. A note book and pen is all you need to do this and record your results. Most investigators will agree that the most important piece of equipment is ourselves - regardless of what ability you may have. It is from these observations that we start seeing things from a different perspective and it makes us ask questions. We then tend to base our research around these questions. It is at this point the method can get lost or muddled up a little bit. It is important to come up with a hypothesis or theory based on what we are questioning. We should then be investigating in a way to help us answer these questions. To do this, we need to put our theory or hypothesis to the test by conducting some experiments. What is important to remember with this process is that it isn't an overnight thing. You won't get your answer from one night of investigating. Experiments take place over a long period of time so that you can get a wider range of results to anaylise. Some experiments can go on for years. Once you feel you have exhausted your experimentation it is time to conclude if your theory stacks up against the information you have gained from your experiments. One of the most important parts of the process comes next and is often overlooked. Sharing your results. The trend on social media is more geared toward showing an amazing video capture or experience caught on tape, you don't necessarily see people sharing their findings. This is what I encourage you all to do more of.
While you may not be following the scientific method to the letter, you are most likely loosely following the process in some way. Peer review is so very important in this field, not only for yourself to grow and learn, but for others as well. If you come up with a new technique or theory, share it with your peers, have them do it too and collate the information. People can be very protective and not share this information as they are afraid of being judged and also some people feel that others may 'steal their idea'. The thing is the more data we collect, the more we can really start finding some answers to our questions. The best way to do that is to get other people involved. Look at the concept behind the Worlds Largest Ghost Hunt. It is not just a gimmick. It is intended to have people from all over the world doing the same thing at the same time to see if it gauges any results. By getting more people involved, it means more data to contribute towards your theory.
There are a lot of 'theories' that are out there in the paranormal field, but are we putting them to the test? I have spoken many times about the Stonetape theory and the Singapore Theory and fact that it is just accepted as it is because it is popular and people don't really question it. This is the direction we need to start heading. Not just asking questions, but making sure when we are out there investigating that we are actively trying to get the answers.
This can be done with or without equipment. Having a piece of equipment doesn't make your approach scientific. You can be scientific without one piece of 'paranormal equipment'. It is all about the method, not the equipment. Again not everyone wants to be a serious investigator, some just enjoy the experience and this is fine too, there are elements of the scientific method you can incorporate too, in fact ...... you probably already are.
Are you actively researching a particular theory? Do you have some results of an experiment to share? Tell me in the comments below!
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