David L. Hoof

Strictly Speaking


May 13, 2014

Tags: research, search, literature search, meaning inflation, pretending authority, meaning, significancen


In scientific parlance, research came into usage to denote a process of structured inquiry involving experiments designed to test a hypothesis as part of a system designed to admit certain possibilities for further (not farther) consideration as theories, and in which theories remain until better theories appear, often as a result of new observations not embraced by existing theories.

In academics a distinction exists between a literature search, which means looking up what already exists in the scientific literature, and research. A literature search cites what is presumed to be currently known; research deals with what is not yet known, but which the researcher hopes that experiments will reveal. In short, research produces previously unknown data, facts or insights into the natural world.

Applying this narrow definition, the broader use of the word, as in research on the internet, attempts to dignify a process as more involved or structured or informative than the origin sense of the word intended. This is not a matter of evolution of language, but of devaluation of a rigorous process by extending the use to a highly informal one.

As regards research on the internet, unless restricted to peer-reviewed journals, the the process suffers from inclusion of material that is more often wrong than it is correct, and inclines toward separating the putative “researcher” from his or her hard-earned dollar.

At issue is the specificity of a word that is being stretched so that everyone with a computer can pretend to be a Ph.D. Even scholarly studies in comparative literature and history can’t be called research if the sources they turn up, however rare or forgotten or concealed, are already in existence at the time their search begins. Even so there are the matters of validation and reproducibility at issue with all matters where personal records, not instrumental readings, are cited.

The phenomenon in usage may be general. If another word were invented that were more demanding and specific and factual than the word research denotes or connotes, there would certainly be a word-grab to glom onto and deploy it in everyone’s arsenal of arguments, aiming, as the common australism puts it, to disclose, “the true facts.”

Selected Works

suspense mystery
For every emerging independent woman today, men can be little better than annoying at best and downright monstrous at worst. A creation of a stolen NSA computer program, Fiona Halloran is launched into the present to assist faltering novelist Andy Delaney capture the market that has evaded him, the one for and about women. But there’s an emerging risk: increasing personal danger to them both. This doesn’t stop when they finish his latest novel, Babes & Bastards. It just spills over to the next best seller in a series starring Fiona Halloran, Nun No More. Look for it soon in a bookstore near you.
In the dying Montana town of Sanctuary, helf-Crow Deputy Redfawn Kravitz relentlessly tracks the killer of Senate candidate Jeb Holloway, who then starts picking off the best suspects, one-by-one.
Using only sounds as clues, a blind man must locate his six-year-old niece before kidnappers kill her.
historical mystery
Just before Oktoberfest in 1931, Adolf Hitler's niece and secret lover is found dead in a locked room in the Fuhrer's Munich flat. Pressured by the Nazis, the police rule it a suicide, but evidence suggests a cold blooded execution. If the killer can be outed, widespread outrage will thwart a maniac's rush to power.
A cheated wife goes way overboard to get revenge on - and a fair settlement from -- her uberrich husband, with terrifyingly hysterical results.
literary mystery
Little Gods is prep school noir, like A Separate Peace as if it were written by Alfred Hitchcock.
action adventure
A clandestine biowar attack on America reduces society to medieval chaos.
Approaching Christmas, a winter blizzard locks Chicago in snow. Among its residents, retired FBI poisons expert Tad Lindholm is a haunted man. Haunted by his past, haunted by his recently dead lover Yvette, haunted by the long shadows of too many empty booze bottles, haunted by depression, and tempted by an arsenal of deadly doses to end it all. At the same time, he is trapped by lingering suspicions that he alone synthesized the traceless toxins responsible for recent deaths. Numb with stubbornness, encircled by intersecting mysteries, Lindholm pursues the real killers among his enemies, only to discover an unimaginably personal betrayal.