by Tom Butler
Also see: Literature review writer’s guide
What is “In The Literature” for a Frontier Subject?
A survey of the literature to determine prior art of the subject is generally conducted prior to beginning a research project, a study, meta analysis or writing an essay. This literature survey usually focuses on papers of high academic quality published by accredited universities and articles in peer-reviewed publications recognized by the academic community as “mainstream” and “reliable sources.”
In fields of study concerned with anomalous phenomena (paranormal) such as psi functioning and trans-etheric influences, there are a number of respected organizations which publish journals, some of which are peer-reviewed. In a few organizations such the Parapsychological Association, a doctorate degree is required for full membership. Others tolerate layman participation, but often at the expense of peer-review. The majority of articles presenting research in paranormal subjects is found in self-published books and on the Internet. Just as early-day armature naturalists preceded modern-day natural scientists, the majority of people involved in the study of things paranormal are not academically trained, but may nevertheless have considerable understanding of their subject. In many fields, the latest information about what is known from an experiential point of view is only available on the internet on non-academic websites.
What is a Reliable Reference?
The National Science Foundation is a government department assigned to fund and cultivate research in the USA. It is a major source of funding for research in the university system. In an AA-EVP article, Why Has There Not Been More Study of the Paranormal?, it is noted that the NSF’s viewpoint about what is science is based on an article published in the Skeptical Inquirer. 1
It is clear that the skeptical community is an important “opinion setter” concerning what is and is not science and that anything “mainstream,” especially the academic community, is represented by the skeptical media. An excellent barometer for the skeptical viewpoint can be found in the community of Wikipedia editors. Largely dominated by adherents of James Randi and Robert Carol, this group of editors has gone to extremes to purge their ranks of people who seek a balanced presentation of frontier subjects, and to disallow the use of what they refer to as “fringe” publications. Since all things in Wikipedia articles are required to have a reliable reference, the result is that virtually none of the publications representing frontier subjects are allowed. By extension, it can be seen that none of these publications are considered “in the literature” by the mainstream community of science and academia.
Those who study paranormal phenomena seek to maintain the same high standard of excellence in their work as people in the mainstream, and knowledge of current understanding in the field is as essential as it is for mainstream science. However, a survey of “the literature” in frontier subjects cannot have the same meaning as it does for mainstream science. The remedy is to establish a standard for what is considered “in the literature” for frontier subjects. In the study of trans-etheric influences including Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) and hauntings phenomena, information provided by people who have experience in the field but who may not have academic training in the methods of scientific, can be meaningful, but is currently not easily accessed in a search of the literature.
The following guidelines are intended to help webmasters and publishers develop a central reference through which “qualified” documents can be found. A writer’s guide is also provided to assist authors develop reports that can be realistically considered “in the literature” (qualified). It should be noted that the Association for TransCommunication (formerly AA-EVP) will maintain a list of known central reference lists with a search tool populated with web pages supporting these lists.
What is a Qualified Article?
Emphasis is on accessibility. requirements for an article to be considered “qualified” include:
- An average person should be able to read it without first paying a fee or private membership in an organization
- It should be availability on the the Internet
- It should be able to be located using readily available search tools
- The article should clearly indicate the subject area and kind of article (essay, opinion, research report)
- Clearly indicate how to access the articles
Articles do not necessarily need to comply with the writer’s guide . However, the guide should be considered a Best practice.
Recommendations for Qualified Article Index:
The only requirement for the article guide is that it is accessible to the public and includes only qualified articles. It may be helpful to categorize articles by subject and type. A typical list of types might include:
- Field observations
- Original research
- Meta analysis
Accounts of routine activities such as hauntings investigations, séances or tests of new ideas for transcommunication should not be included unless they lead to empirical evidence. In all cases, articles should comply with the writer’s guide.