I finished my thesis last year on amateur paranormal investigation groups. Many of you have requested copies. It can be purchased but not many would want to spend the money for that, so I’m giving it away via PDF.

You can download here.  Hill_ARIGs_Being_scientifical_thesis

Also, it was adapted for a piece in Skeptical Inquirer magazine, so you can get the meat of it there. But the thesis lists all the groups I looked at and also much more interpretation about their need to feel sciencey. Here is the abstract:

21st century television and the Internet are awash in content regarding amateur paranormal investigators and research groups. These groups proliferated after reality investigation programs appeared on television. Exactly how many groups are active in the U.S. at any time is not known. The Internet provides an ideal means for people with niche interests to find each other and organize activities. This study collected information from 1000 websites of amateur research and investigation groups (ARIGs) to determine their location, area of inquiry, methodology and, particularly, to determine if they state that they use science as part of their mission, methods or goals. 57.3% of the ARIGs examined specifically noted or suggested use of science as part of the groups’ approach to investigation and research. Even when not explicit, ARIGs often used science-like language, symbols and methods to describe their groups’ views or activities. Yet, non-scientific and subjective methods were described as employed in conjunction with objective methods. Furthermore, what were considered scientific processes by ARIGs did not match with established methods and the ethos of the scientific research community or scientific processes of investigation. ARIGs failed to display fundamental understanding regarding objectivity, methodological naturalism, peer review, critical thought and theoretical plausibility. The processes of science appear to be mimicked to present a serious and credible reputation to the non-scientific public. These processes are also actively promoted in the media and directly to the local public as “scientific”. These results highlight the gap between the scientific community and the lay public regarding the understanding of what it means to do science and what criteria are necessary to establish reliable knowledge about the world.

Got some comments? Let me know. Also check out this Monster Talk episode where I talk about it. And this from Token Skeptic as well:

Monster Talk, June 13, 2012 Skeptics are redoubtable

Token Skeptic, Episode 90, Nov 29, 2011.

4 thoughts on “Paper on Amateur paranormal investigation groups: Being Scientifical

  1. Thanks very much for sharing this with us all online; I’ll try and put the word out about it as best I can.

  2. Looking forward to reading it. My other pet peeve is that even “real” science shows don’t clearly differentiate between pure speculation, hypothesis, and theory. I think this and the “sciencey” shows are both contributing to people thinking “science” is just guessing about stuff.

  3. I have an acquaintance that does this crap, and she couldn’t spell the word science let alone conduct any. Despite this she managed to B.S. her way into some kind of tv show since swamp people rednecks and this paranormal stuff are so popular.

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