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An answer of mine was deleted because it was "substantially based on Original Research". I rather like the high standard of quality that questions and answers are generally held to here, and is one reason why I enjoy the site, so I'm not suggesting it's brought back without changes. But if there is some way to improve it I would like to do so.

I'm not contesting that it was based on original research, but I'm not sure I understand why it is considered so. For one I'd like to avoid making the same mistake twice. But also, if it's possible to fix my answer, I'd like to do so. The deleter made a second criticism of my answer that I do understand and think is probably worth considering, though it's not what I'm asking about here.

I don't want this to be misconstrued as complaining, so I'm hesitant to link the question. I don't think it's necessary, I think I can just give the general outline. So here it goes...

The claim

The majority of a certain group of people share a trait.

My Answer

  1. Found a list of representative people of this group. (note the deleter's second criticism is that this list might not be representative, which certainly could be true)
  2. Checked each of these individuals for this trait in a series of trivial searches
  3. Presented the results in a list
  4. As a summary, presented the percentage of members with the trait

I took a look at What constitutes original research?

And I'm at a loss to see why it qualifies. I guess it could fall into

Negative Searches - Answers are original research when they are based on the fact that the answerer found no relevant results when looking at non-verifiable or non-replicable search results, such as Google queries.

As most of the group didn't seem to have the trait. But it's not something that's easy to miss when reading a summary of the biography of an individual. And it certainly is replicable.

So I hope someone can help me to learn from this experience and maybe even save the answer. As it's a question without other answers for 2 years, and I put a fair bit of work into it and thought it was pretty decent one.

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Under the entry FAQ: What constitutes original research? is this description of "Original Data Analysis".

Answers are original research when they perform non-trivial analysis of available data and present a novel result which requires specialist expertise to review. It is acceptable to provide a collection of evidence, but not to apply non-trivial calculations that require a community of experts to evaluate.

While the analysis you did only used trivial calculations, you, counter-intuitively, implicitly made a number of some non-trivial decisions to choose to use trivial calculations.

The second criticism I gave was intended to provide an example of the sort of decision you made. You implicitly decided that the top notable scientific contributions were made by a fair sample of the scientific contributions. This isn't a safe assumption (and I could invent some example scenarios where it offers a bias.) Particularly, it seems to ignore the contributions of the people listed in the claim.

You used your own criteria for classifying people into a binary which isn't necessarily that clear. Should we dismiss the contributions of Rudolf Virchow and Darwin's theological study, Avogadro's degree in ecclesiastical law?

I note that you used a simplistic method of determining that the two figures were different, rather than a more rigorous statistical analysis to determine if the two numbers were statistically different. This is another example of an implicit decision to keep the analysis simple. (I have to acknowledge that the results you got passed the "inter-ocular impact test" - one look at the results, and the answer hits you right between the eyes, so I wouldn't have dinged it for that alone.)

For what it is worth, I never like deleting answers that have had a lot of effort put into them, like this one clearly did. I hope it can be resurrected by citing published analysis.

  • Thanks a lot for taking the time to give me a fuller and more detailed explanation. So in the future, could my answers be improved by making less of my decisions implicit? By talking through them? I try to provide as much of this information as I can but try to stay as succinct as possible. I mean the things you mention asking if we should dismiss, I asked the same thing, that's why I noted them in the list. I don't think the question in its current form is answerable. So I simplified, maybe I should have left it alone. Though, I was surprised by the result. In any case, thanks again. – Adam Phelps Jun 29 '15 at 16:16
  • @AdamPhelps Note the last sentence: "I hope it can be resurrected by citing published analysis". In future your answer could be improved, not by "making less of my decisions implicit", but by finding other people who have published answers to this same question. If the question is a "notable" claim then there is probably one or more published answers. If answers are published then they may have been peer reviewed but at least they won't be deleted as "original research" (instead they might be downvoted if people disagree with their methodology or conclusions, or upvoted if people agree). – ChrisW Jul 1 '15 at 1:14
  • @ChrisW Thanks for your input! Unfortunately in this case I don't have much hope for finding anything published. Indeed, I much prefer using them when available. I'm still trying to learn what's better than nothing and what's not. So again, thanks for your input. – Adam Phelps Jul 1 '15 at 7:48

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