Posted by: Jeremy Fox | June 6, 2012

Advice: on the perils of “established” methods

Commenting on the previous post, Jim Bouldin notes that people often choose, or justify, their methods on the basis that those methods have been used by many others in the past.

As Jim points out, there is a problem with this:

You should choose well-justified methods, not popular ones. And you should justify your methods by justifying them. Saying that “At least I’m only making mistakes that others have made before” is not a justification.

By the way, I’m guilty of invoking past practice as a justification for my own practice, though I try to do it only as a supplement to good justifications rather than as a substitute. Occasionally referees who aren’t swayed by good arguments can be swayed by bad ones, so I sometimes use both.

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Responses

  1. Well, I definitely agree but it can be hard time trying to convince reviewers about the utility of new methods. Depending on the topic, science is quite conservative, I guess.


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