A. Conan Doyle and Analysis (part two)Posted: May 12, 2014
5/12/2014 Returning now to Arthur Conan Doyle, A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes (Nelson Doubleday Inc., 1955), we find that Doyle, through Sherlock Holmes, has something to say about secondary or “desk” research and as well as work that you have done earlier, or that someone else has done for you, and about applying your analytical skills to each. The first is from “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”. There, talking to Watson, Holmes observes that
“[t]he Press…is a very valuable institution, if you only know how to use it.”
Here he is actually referring to reading the press’ reporting. And press reports can be extremely useful. I’m not referring to national wire service reports on public corporations, but rather to trade publications, the local business press, and local newspapers. These sources can be invaluable, not just by covering things such as the expansion of a competitor’s manufacturing facility, as noted in the proceedings of the local zoning board, but also in their listings of job openings and promotions, whether within the industry or locally. In addition, there are always the local and trade reporters. These men and women can be invaluable resources, so long as you are honest with them, and respect their needs. Their needs? They want to be able to report news, so it is probably useful if you can agree to become a resource for them in the future or even provide them with some background information that they currently do not possess. In addition, in “The Adventure of the Silver Blaze”, Holmes observes that the problem before him
“is one of those cases where the art of the reasoned should be used rather for the sifting of details than for the acquiring of fresh evidence.”
In other words, if you are presented with research that has already been done, and you feel you can rely on it, at least to some degree, take a few minutes and (re)read it. Actually, more precisely, you should read it, skipping all conclusions or analyses by the author. It is not that the author is necessarily wrong; it is that you’re reading it to understand the facts, and not the author’s reasoning abilities and eventual conclusion.