Dr Duncan James > References

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How can I say that?

Don't just accept what someone says! If we do then we will simply all believe whatever is shouted loudest.

Quick Explanation

Referencing is pretty obvious.

(1) "Bananas are green, live in groups, hunt chocolate and live on the moon." I could say anything I want. But that doesn't make it true. What does make it true? Well, there are people working full-time around the world in universities, research centres and other places to carefully find things out. Most other things are just guesses! But there is good news...

(2) If you see something and report it honestly then that does not need referencing: "I saw an amazing sunset on my visit to France." Great! And I love the photo! ...just don't try to then claim too much: "Therefore all sunsets in France are amazing and the best in the whole world." Hold on there! You can't just say that! But, thanks again for showing me that amazing photo and tell me more about your holiday it sounds great.

(3) Many things are generally accepted and do not need specific referencing. For example, 2+2=4 is a very common fact we are comfortable with. Similarly, if you claim to have done the washing up in ten minutes that is not absurd, unrealistic, a potential conflict of interest nor a likely area of bias (such as history, politics or war) and so that does not need a reference either.

(4) Then there are some things that are fairly well known but need a general reference. For this I typically use Wikipedia. Or, I might use something like a well-referenced scientific textbook, a popular science book or a search on the excellent Google Scholar (which is a good way for the general public to search the academic literature). I have a PhD in science and my experience of wikipedia is that it is very detailed but still lacks many of the commonly-accepted scientific facts. Therefore I often go beyond wikipedia for my general referencing.

I am sometimes wrong. Everyone I have ever met or listened to or read has been wrong sometimes. I am also wrong sometimes. I estimate that maybe 5% of what I say and write is slightly wrong but not in a misleading way. Maybe 0.1% is wrong and also misleading. I think this is normal for a good non-fiction content producer. I am always trying to improve these percentages. I welcome constructive criticism and offers to help.

Referencing video series. I have the outline for a video series on how we know things and the history of referencing. There are many people who have written about the history of science or exploration. But I am developing a series that looks at the history of how that knowledge is then retained and passed on to future generations by civilisation. This includes many interesting cases of information being lost or misremembered. I look forward to sharing this and welcome anyone with a good level of professional knowledge, mainly at a research level, in any topic to contact me and help with anecdotal examples to illustrate this project and make it more personal.

To Be Sorted

This references pages is a draft at the moment. The following content is in no particular order and will be tidied up later.

Particularly in my wildlife content, I often describe something I have seen. Obviously this does not need referencing and I will always be clear when it is my personal experience that is being described. This is often called a "primary source".

Often in science writing it is fun to speculate! I have found this to be particularly common in wildlife/nature science. Animals and plants have evolved to live, breath, feed, drink, evade predators and breed successfully. It is interesting to speculate on ways they might be doing this well. For example a mottled brown animal is likely to be well camouflaged in undergrowth, a white bird is likely to be well camouflaged in the sky, a blue animal is likely to be well camouflaged in water, an animal that runs fast is likely to be good at avoiding predators, and so on. Most discussion on this topic will be in terms of "being brown makes it easier to..." and not "it is brown because...": we are currently not able to recreate or observe large-scale evolution so we can ultimately only guess at what really made certain features appear, however the benefits it gives plants and animals now can be fairly confidently stated.

References are very important in my work. As a scientist I was trained to justify any facts that I use. As a scientist, I expect others to be checking my work, I welcome their suggestions for corrections and I also check the work of others as I use it. This continual process of checking and re-checking helps improve the reliability of what we do as a civilisation. The same is also true in other academic fields.

My maths worksheets and maths videos are based on fundamental mathematics which does not need referencing due to its relative simplicity and universal acceptance. My wildlife guides are mainly based on descriptions of what I have personally experienced: this means I do not need references as I am simply reporting what I have seen with my own eyes. My dancing videos and articles are mainly based on my personal experience as a teacher and do not need referencing: it could be argued that I should have kept more thorough notes on the success and failure of different teaching techniques that I have tried over the years but I did not and yet I still believe ticket2dance is useful as an academic resource as well as a practical tool for learners (just not as useful as it might have been had I spent the extra hours also recording observations and other data). In my work as a scientist I still have to reference everything but most of that is not published here on my website.

As I push on with the creation and publication of videos and books I am getting to the point where I need to do referencing. Hence, I have created this page on my website! Soon I will be adding more detail about the referencing of the factual content that I produce. The intention at the moment is to put video references in the video descriptions, book references in an appendix at the back of every book and website references at the bottom of any relevant page. Finally, I intend to add some additional references to general/index pages on the website where those references have, for example, influenced most of the content of my wildlife articles or maths articles.

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