It is generally important when conducting research in the paranormal to think critically and put your research and field investigations to scrutinized peer review. Common sense and general assumptions are not enough in research to substantiate claims and provide valid evidence in support of those claims. Conclusive evidence is required. This may be difficult for some paranormal researchers to fully grasp or even accept. Their beliefs and intuitions, while seemingly relevant, are not the deciding factors in whether or not their evidence or experiences are genuine.
When presenting evidence that would convict a murderer in a court case, the evidence must be proven to corroborate and link the murderer to the evidence. Assumption and perceived common sense cannot be utilized alone, but rather rigorous testing must be done to provide substantial evidence that can link and convict the murderer. Only then can it be provided as evidence. If it cannot, it will often be discarded.
Putting a scientific attitude into practice requires not only skepticism, but also humility, because we may have to reject our own ideas (Myers, 2004). It important to understand that the nature of science is not concerned with opinions or what might be assumed to be the correct answer or truth, but rather what is. Through the use of smarter thinking, called critical thinking, we can examine claims, evidence, assumptions, and even assess conclusions.
The application of scientific thinking starts with the understanding and even acceptance that what is observable can and will be misinterpreted, especially when dealing with unexplained phenomena. This is why it is so important to understand what researchers and scientists mean when they talk and write about the observations that they have made. For an individual scientist, the challenge and excitement in the game of science begins with learning how to see new things or how to understand old things in new ways (Grinnell, 1992).
Critical thinking goes above and beyond simply gathering random data and coming to a conclusion based on this. Unfortunately, this is how most paranormal research investigations are conducted. Some photos are snapped, surveillance cameras are often put up, and audio recorders are used on a whim to capture something unexplained. At the end of the day, was there any purpose to this? Was there a specific reason each and every piece of equipment was used? I am not saying that every research investigation needs to be formulaic, however, structure and order is necessary. Critical thinking allows you, the investigator, to plan for specific situations to ensure your data is collected in the most controlled format possible. For example, you are looking to do an EVP session at a location that is rumored to gather many EVP's. Rather than simply heading to the site and setting up your tech gear and hoping to capture something the same way everyone else has, sit down, and think critically about not only how you will collect your data, but also what factors could cause your data to be misinterpreted. Are there radio towers in the area? What are the conditions of the location? What kinds of recorders are you using? What are some known issues with those recorders? Are they of good enough quality to provide your research with quality data? How can I prevent outside variables from interfering with the research?
The more questions you ask and the more detailed you become with your questions, the more answers you are able to provide and truly get you and your research team ready for quality research. Imagine capturing an EVP at a location that was virtually inarguable by skeptical minds simply because you took the time to prepare, to think critically, and to cover your bases by setting up your research in as much of a controlled method as possible. Would that not be more beneficial than simply heading to a site to capture evidence that you cannot defend? Of course it is.
Grinnell, F. (1992). The Scientific Attitude 2nd Edition. In F. Grinnell, The Scientific Attitude 2nd Edition (p. 180). The Guilford Press.
Myers, D. (2004). Psychology Seventh Edition. Worth Publishers.