Casefile Clues

04 November 2013

Don't Forget to Include Why You Didn't Include It

Should you include "wrong" conclusions in your proof argument? I think there's a time and a place to do that.

Let's say I'm writing up my proof argument as to why I think the wife of Edward Bubbinski was named Margaret McCormick. Let's assume that I have reliable evidence and sound analysis on my side. The problem is that other people and other sources have different things to say about Edward's wife. Things that have been repeated over and over for decades.

I have information from a variety of sources (some more reliable than others) that says Edward's wife's maiden name was:
  • Taylor
  • Taliaferro
  • McMormick
I decide that the information stating her maiden name was Taylor or Taliaferro is unreliable and does not help me "make my case" as to Margaret's maiden name. Just because the Taylor/Talifaferro information is suspect does not automatically mean that McCormick information is correct. Even if I have sound evidence that the Taylor/Taliaferro information is incorrect, that doesn't mean the McCormick name has to be right. I need evidence that McCormick is what is actually correct.

What do I do with the Taylor/Taliaferro information when I know it is incorrect? I don't think incorrect information should be ignored. In fact, I think this incorrect information, along with why I believe it to be unreliable and incorerct, should be included in my written proof of why Margaret was a McCormick. 

Why should unreliable information be included in my proof showing something else? There are two reasons.

1) To show that I didn't overlook (or ignore ) the wrong stuff. 
Incorrect information (especially when it's been spread numerous times) should be referenced so that readers of my proof know that I was aware of the information and had not overlooked it or left it out because "it didn't fit my theory." If I (for valid reasons) believe that  something commonly repeated and reported to be true is actually false, I need to at least acknowledge it in my proof that a contrary statement is true. Acknowledging it does not mean that I think it is true, but rather, in my opinion, it strengthens my argument that something else is true because it cannot be said that I ignored what I did not want to believe.

2) It strengthens my case.
If I have evidence that the incorrect information is untrue, then that evidence (and my clearly written agrument summarizing that evidence) helps me to make my case that something else is true. It does not automatically mean that my alternate theory is true--I still need solid evidence. If I have evidence that Margaret's maiden name was McCormick and I also have separate evidence that her maiden name was not Taylor or Taliaferro, my case is for the McCormick name is stronger.

Don't just ignore what you know is wrong.




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