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I would like to know if my answer at https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/a/23856/21485 is acceptable for this site. This is the first post I have made here. I greatly appreciate the existence of this site and want to make sure my contributions maintain its quality.

I have read the various FAQs, and in particular, FAQ: What constitutes original research?

Specifically, I have the following questions:

  1. For this particular question, there is no definitive yes or no answer because the material is new and the presumed origin of the material in question is vague. Since the question is unanswerable (there is no concrete evidence either way), is it inappropriate to post an answer?
  2. One definition of original research from the FAQ is "... [to] perform non-trivial analysis of available data and present a novel result which requires specialist expertise to review". I think my analysis is trivial, and it certainly doesn't require specialist expertise to review. However, I did do research (as trivial as it was) on my own. Is my answer original research?
  3. Google seems to have a poor reputation in the various FAQs, citing its different results per user and through implications that other search engines with a more complete index exist and should be used. Is it generally unacceptable to include information in an answer that was primarily based on Google results? In my answer, I ultimately searched an originating site directly; however, Google results fundamentally served as my basis for concluding that site was the earliest mention of the material. Is this OK?
  4. I have reached out to the originating (presumably) news source for clarification. If they respond to me, I would share that response here. Of course, the authenticity of that response could not be confirmed by anybody unless the news source also posted the clarifications on their site (otherwise it would exist only in an email to me). If they respond to me but do not update their site, would that response still be acceptable as valid, if weak, evidence? Does asking the news source for clarification put me further into original research territory?
  5. Are there any other reasons my answer would be unacceptable?

I am not married to my answer, and I know it is not the greatest. I have no qualms about removing it and no strong drive to keep it. Mostly, I just want to make sure I'm on the right track so I don't start a personal tradition of posting crappy answers.

  • 1
    IMHO, it's perfectly fine -- I've given similar answers in the past. – Sklivvz Nov 22 '14 at 0:22
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It's acceptable, but I am afraid you are right: it isn't the greatest.

My biggest concern is that it doesn't definitively answer the question.

Before I read the answer, I had an open mind, but I had some "priors". I thought it was likely that the photo would turn out to be totally unrelated to the alleged backstory - and in fact it was some pornographic shoot or similar. However, I didn't know for sure. There have been plenty of cases of religious leaders abusing their position with parishioners (although this seemed an unusual case - the large number of people involved would seem to guarantee that the story would get attention.)

After I read the answer, my beliefs hadn't really changed. I didn't feel much surer, either way. Probably a porn shoot, but I can't rule out it might be true.

You argue above there is no definitive answer - sometimes that is the case, and demonstrating that is a perfectly good way to answer such a question - but in this case, there is plenty of opportunity for police reports, court papers, interviews with the (alleged) victims or perpetrator, copies of a pornographic video using the scene, etc., that would demonstrate or disprove the claim.

Reaching out for comment is tricky - in the past, we've asked for direct quotes and enough details so that others could fact-check the claim with the same sources if they were doubtful. Example

  • Thanks. In this case, since the presumed original source doesn't have any real info that could lead to documentation that could prove a negative or positive, I think I will remove the answer, leave a comment, and wait to see if the news source responds and their response leads to documentation either way. – Jason C Nov 22 '14 at 13:27

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