A. Conan Doyle and Analysis (part three)

May 19, 2014

Conan Doyle, through Sherlock Holmes, also spoke about the right and wrong ways to approach analysis.

In two of his stories, he warned about jumping to conclusions, particularly before completing the necessary research:

“It is a capital mistake to theorize in advance of the facts.” “The Adventure of the Second Stain”

“I had…come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows…how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data.” “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”

We have to recognize that in doing any research, we almost always start with a working thesis of what we expect to find, or even worse, a conclusion which we are trying to support. Either way, we are already in trouble. Certainly, we cannot clear our mind of everything, but we can at least recognize that we almost always have a preliminary thesis, which we should try to challenge, and not merely try to support.

In terms of preparing your analysis, Holmes suggestion from “Silver Blaze” is right on point:
“I shall enumerate them [the essential facts of the case] to you, as nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person….”

In other words, sit down, without your notes, without access to working drafts, documents on your computer, etc. and tell someone else, in as few sentences as possible, what it is you think you know. Doing that forces you not only to (re)organize in your mind the research that you done, but it also forces you to verbalize conclusions that you may or may not have felt comfortable drawing.

Another way to approach this is to turn your research assignment into a single question, or at most two or three questions. Then, using a program such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, dictate a short answer to each question. Again, you are relying on your mind to cut through all the research you done to get to the core answers.


One Comment on “A. Conan Doyle and Analysis (part three)”

  1. […] We have to recognize that in doing any research, we almost always start with a working thesis of what we expect to find, or even worse, a conclusion which we are trying to support. Either way, we are already in trouble. Certainly, we cannot clear our mind of everything, but we can at least recognize that we almost always have a preliminary thesis, which we should try to challenge, and not merely try to support..  […]


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